As millennials now make up the largest segment of the workforce in the U.S., employers face both opportunities and challenges as they seek to engage and retain talent. Additionally, Generation Z, those born in the mid- to late-1990s, will soon be entering the workforce too – and what once served as workplace incentives will require readjustment in order to leverage worker interests and skills.

Prevailing misconceptions surrounding industrial occupations present an even greater challenge for manufacturing. The good news is, there are initiatives to educate and provide young workers with a dose of enthusiasm for the manufacturing industry.

A Price Too High to Bear

According to a 2013 Gallup State of the American Workplace report, actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. an estimated $450 to $550 billion annually in lost productivity. In spring 2015, the OpX Leadership Network released the Workforce Engagement Framework with the primary goal to help individuals, teams and organizations reverse the trend and re-engage employees.

Given the high price tag of employee disengagement, efforts to inspire, engage and keep talent continue to be managerial priorities for any business that wants to thrive. Cultivating the largest generation in the workforce – and generations to come – with the knowledge and skills to keep manufacturing moving forward is crucial in today’s fast and highly competitive marketplace.

A Sense of Purpose

Forward-thinking manufacturing companies are finding ways to provide challenging and exciting opportunities. Organizations that clearly communicate a purpose to staff and offer opportunities for growth within the company support a sense of collaboration and accomplishment. Similarly, companies have an opportunity to communicate how manufacturing can play an important role in society and how workers through their daily activities can make a positive impact. For example, manufacturers may consider emphasizing their role in tackling environmental issues and food supply safety while providing convenience and innovation for consumers in a variety of sectors.

Raising the Profile of an Industry

PMMI’s Emerging Leaders Network, which serves to advance manufacturing through leadership development, offers a number of initiatives and tools to engage the millennial workforce. PACK EXPO International (McCormick Place, Chicago; Nov. 6-9) will also serve as a resource for workforce development insights with educational programming that addresses workforce engagement. The “Future Innovators – Robotics Showcase,” meant for high schoolers, provides a platform for students to show off their robotic talents and introduce these students to future careers in processing and packaging. These efforts and more help to inspire young people to leadership in science and technology and engage them in exciting, mentor-based programs that foster science, engineering and technology skills. Essentially, they encourage excitement and reinforce the message that manufacturing can be “cool.” The objective is to improve the workforce of today and encourage young innovators to join the world of manufacturing.

To learn more about the OpX Leadership Network, visit To register for PACK EXPO International, visit


PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents the voice of more than 700 North American manufacturers of equipment, components and materials for processing and packaging. We work to advance a variety of industries by connecting consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the world-class PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of processing and packaging to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Pharma EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPO PACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara and ProFood Tech, launching in April 2017. PMMI Media Group connects manufacturers to the latest solutions, trends and innovations in processing and packaging year-round through brands including Packaging World, Automation World, Healthcare Packaging, Contract Packaging and Packaging + Processing OEM. PMMI Business Drivers assist members in pursuing operational excellence through workforce development initiatives, deliver actionable business intelligence on economic, market and industry trends to support members’ growth strategies, and actively connect the supply chain throughout the year.

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