A more optimistic outlook among millennials about the future of manufacturing could bode well for an industry that is contending with an ongoing skills shortage.

Nearly half of U.S. millennials (47 percent) think there will be enough qualified professionals to fill manufacturing job demands in the next 10 years, according to a survey by digital manufacturer Proto Labs. That’s a marked increase from the only 35 percent of Generation Xers and baby boomers who think the jobs demand will be met.

The rosier outlook may be linked to millennials’ changing perceptions of manufacturing. According to the survey, 37 percent of millennials see manufacturing as a high-tech career choice — notably higher than both Generation Xers (27 percent) and baby boomers (23 percent). Also, 49 percent of millennials believe engineering is a needed skill in today’s manufacturing sector, compared with only 41 percent of baby boomers.

Digital manufacturing has paved the way for a larger breadth of opportunities in addition to the plant floor roles solely and traditionally associated with the industry. Today, top manufacturers must fill a range of skilled positions — from mold techs, to applications engineers, to software developers. The digitalization of the industry has transformed yesterday’s manual nature of manufacturing to the high-tech environment it is today. It is increasingly important for the manufacturing industry to continue shifting its outdated public image, as, in the next decade, it is estimated that 2 million out of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to talent shortages (Deloitte).

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News, Workforce / Skills Gap