Survey finds Gen-Z could save manufacturing, stop the silver tsunami
The "silver tsunami" - the name some have given to a wave of thousands of baby boomers nearing retirement at the same time - might have an unlikely savior: Generation Z.
A new survey from Leading2Lean, an organization that helps manufacturers improve their operations, found that young people from Generation-Z - the generation beginning in around 1995 - are 19 percent more likely to have had a counselor, teacher, or mentor suggest they consider manufacturing as a viable career option. Around 32 percent of Gen-Z individuals have had manufacturing suggested to them as a career option - compared to just 18 percent of millennials and 13 percent of the population at-large.
The survey also found that Gen-Z is intrigued by careers in manufacturing. They are 7 percent more likely to consider working in the manufacturing industry and 12 percent less likely to view the manufacturing industry as being in decline, both compared against the general population. These findings may be in relation to Gen-Z having a larger exposure to the industry compared to previous generations with 32 percent having family members or friends working in the manufacturing industry, compared to 19 percent for Millennials and 15 percent for the general population.
"For many years, manufacturing has struggled to introduce and entice new workers to the industry," said Keith Barr, President and CEO of L2L. "The industry has failed to compete with technology for their interest. Unfortunately, the industry hasn't fully explained the dynamic, technology-driven environment of the modern plant floor. With Gen-Z just moving into the workforce, we need to encourage their participation in modern manufacturing. If we don't, I'm afraid the industry will be hit with the negative effects of the Silver Tsunami."
It isn't all great news though. While Gen-Z appears to have had greater overall exposure to manufacturing, misperceptions around the highly technical and modern nature of the industry still remain. A majority (56 percent) of Gen-Z would consider working in the tech industry, while only 27 percent would consider working in the manufacturing industry. They are also more likely to consider manufacturing jobs boring when compared to millennials and the general population.
Salary misconceptions exist as well. In 2019, L2L found that more than 53 percent of the general population assumes the average salary of a mid-level manufacturing manager is under $60,000. In reality, the average salary for a manufacturing manager in 2018 was $118,500, according to IndustryWeek.
The silver tsunami could have harsh effects, especially with evidence suggesting many boomers are choosing to sell to corporations, private equity firms, and large conglomerates instead of passing it on to their children or a successor. This often means layoffs and fewer businesses. As a result, some states, including Massachusetts, are incentivizing companies to go employee-owned.
In a recent Woodworking Network survey, we found that 80 percent of woodworking executives and higher-ups feel that millennial and Gen-Z work ethics are a problem. 80 percent also said they're having trouble finding workers and are raising pay and lowering hiring standards to cope.
What do you think? Can Gen-Z mitigate the silver tsunami? Let us know in the comments.

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About the author
Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected].