Millennials More Upbeat on Manufacturing’s Future

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 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.

millennials in manufacturing

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 Transformation of Manufacturing
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 It is increasingly important for the manufacturing industry to continue shifting its outdated public image, as, in the next decade, it is estimated that 2 million out of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to talent shortages (Manufacturing Institute).

millennials infographic

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“I expected to begin my career at what you might consider a traditional technology company, like Facebook, Amazon or Uber,” said Andrew Crocker, a 25-year-old software developer at Proto Labs who joined the company straight out of college. “Manufacturing wasn’t necessarily on my radar. But digital manufacturing has changed everything. It’s created a high demand for skills like mine, and it’s provided me a great career opportunity.”

Millennials Optimistic About Manufacturing Salaries
The financial benefit of a career in manufacturing is another perception that’s changing among young people. According to the survey, 40 percent of millennial respondents think a career in today’s manufacturing industry is high-paying, compared with only 26 percent of Generation Xers. Indeed, the average U.S. manufacturing worker makes more than $70,000 a year, according to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

“Digital manufacturing is revitalizing our industry and is igniting new opportunities,” said Vicki Holt, president and CEO for Proto Labs. “The skills gap presents a critical roadblock for all of us. But it’s encouraging to see a renewed optimism from a new generation of workers, and to hear that they understand this isn’t their grandparents’ manufacturing industry. Much work remains ahead of us, but this is a good start.”

About the Survey
The public-opinion online poll was commissioned by Proto Labs and conducted by ORC International’s CARVAN® Geographic Omnibus in September 2016. It consisted of a sample of 1,023 adults comprising 512 men and 511 women, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points for the full sample.

Webinar Round-Up: On-demand Manufacturing and Complex Molding Processes

Next in our 2017 webinar series, we discussed rapid overmolding and insert molding. The presentation shares how these advanced molding processes work, how to design for each, and concludes with an open Q&A.

The webinar can be viewed on demand here.

Key takeaways:

  • Design considerations for overmolding and insert molding
  • Recommendations for material compatibility in two-material plastic parts
  • How to implement preformed components into plastic part designs

Additional Webinars
Miss last month’s webinar on reducing production costs with quick-turn manufacturing? That presentation can also be viewed on demand, here. And, Check out our round-up of 2016 webinars to view additional Proto Labs webinars, which cover designing for 3D printing, material selection, and more.

Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: Amanda Williams

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This will be Amanda’s first year on the Cool Idea! Award judge panel.

Next in our Cool Idea! Award judge series is Amanda Williams. Currently, she spearheads intelligent packaging programs at Jabil—a global manufacturing company. Before joining Jabil, Amanda founded multiple startups in consumer electronics and manufacturing logistics and has worked at tech companies like Xerox PARC, Adobe, Intel, and Microsoft.

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing lots of cool ideas!

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I went to graduate school for information and computer science, but also received some training in ethnography and anthropology while I was there and I use it daily.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
I was talking with the president of a design firm about one of his employees, and he said “He’s a great designer because he argues well. He argues a lot, but it’s never to win or to prove that he is right. He argues because that’s how you make the product better.” I thought it was a really smart insight, and it has informed what I look for when I’m hiring, and how to judge and handle conflict when managing a team. Continue reading

Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: John Vaskis

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This week we’re chattin’ with John Vaskis, Senior Director of Hardware at Indiegogo. John helps hardware-based businesses execute successful crowdfunding campaigns whether that be through PR outreach, finding a manufacturing partner, gauging consumer interest, or any other activity that helps startups get off the ground.

John Vaskis of Indiegogo

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing all of the awesome products that always come through the contest every year. The innovation that happens with the Cool Idea! Program always blows my minds—it feels like you’re looking into the future.

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I originally went to college for computer science to create video games; needless to say CS and me were similar to oil and vinegar. I did get into the video game world, though, on the business side as my first real job.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
When I started my first job I was told to simply “get out there” because I knew no one, had no network, and I was told that would be the quickest way to learn. That proved to be very useful. This industry is based upon connections, so I suggest to everyone to make as many of them as possible. Continue reading

A New Manufacturing Process at Proto Labs: Insert Molding

We’re excited to share the latest addition to our rapid injection molding service—insert molding. You can now incorporate molded-in threaded inserts, bushings, and metal bosses into your injection molding designs.

Metal inserts reinforce mechanical properties of molded, plastic parts.

The plastic manufacturing process can add functionality, improve strength, and reduce assembly costs of parts. Common applications include electronic components, housings, knobs, handles, and dials.

Check out these resources to learn more about designing for insert molding:

Just like our other injection molding processes, you can expect to receive parts in 15 days or less. If you have a design that could benefit from insert molding, upload a 3D CAD model and we’ll send you a free quote with DFM within hours.