Executive Briefings

Manufacturing's Dilemma: Baby Boomers Retiring; Students Finds the Industry Uninteresting

Many U.S. manufacturers are experiencing talent shortages in part because of an aging baby boomer generation that has begun its exodus from the U.S. workforce. The oldest baby boomers turned 65 on Jan. 1, 2011, and every day thereafter for about the next 19 years, some 10,000 more will reach the traditional retirement age, according to the Pew Research Center.

But it's not just the departure of older, seasoned workers that is raising fears of vanishing manufacturing skills in the United States. The specter of knowledge walking out the door with retirees is buttressed by what many perceive as a lack of interest by young people in manufacturing as a career.

"Very few students in school aspire to work in manufacturing," says Pete Selleck, president and chairman of Michelin North America. As evidence, he pointed to a curriculum development process employed in South Carolina (where the tire manufacturer's North American headquarters is located), in which students at a certain age begin to identify the career "clusters" that interest them. While STEM ranked third, "that's good news," manufacturing ranked 14th of 16 choices.

Not so good.

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But it's not just the departure of older, seasoned workers that is raising fears of vanishing manufacturing skills in the United States. The specter of knowledge walking out the door with retirees is buttressed by what many perceive as a lack of interest by young people in manufacturing as a career.

"Very few students in school aspire to work in manufacturing," says Pete Selleck, president and chairman of Michelin North America. As evidence, he pointed to a curriculum development process employed in South Carolina (where the tire manufacturer's North American headquarters is located), in which students at a certain age begin to identify the career "clusters" that interest them. While STEM ranked third, "that's good news," manufacturing ranked 14th of 16 choices.

Not so good.

Read Full Article