Millennials’ technology expectations have been shaped by smartphones, Facebook and digital media — in other words, by easy and ubiquitous connectivity. It’s not surprising, then, that traditional manufacturing systems can seem as retro as waiting for dial-up internet to connect. And that’s bad for the manufacturing sector, because its skills gap is looming large.

A joint study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting projects a surge of nearly 3.5 million open manufacturing jobs created over the next decade. Some of the empty slots will come by way of retiring baby boomers, while others are related to new positions created as a result of natural business growth, the report found. What the report also predicts: As conditions stand now, 2 million of those jobs will go unfulfilled. In other words, the need for the manufacturing sector to appeal to Millennials — the generation typically defined as those born between 1981 and 1997 — is both critical and a very tall order.

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