It’s time to showcase modern American manufacturing – and the opportunity ahead

Posted by Amanda Keeney on October 6, 2017


Manufacturing has a story to tell.

Good jobs. Solid wages. And, a strong multiplier effect to enable countless indirect jobs through supplier relationships. I know. Having spent nearly 10 years in the industry just before the recession, I saw first-hand contributions workers made to consumers, to their community, their families and our economy.

But there were challenges. Pressures came from stiff foreign competition, significant raw material price increases and a general decline in the U.S. market. Manufacturers were facing a crisis not lost on our workforce: multiple rounds of downsizing and numerous plants shuttered. And, back then, the skills gap was just beginning to emerge. Taking the plant offline for annual maintenance outages had to be timed to accommodate shrinking national crews who possessed scarce in-demand skills. And, boomers with 25, 30 or 40 years’ service to the company were starting to retire.

Fast forward to today – U.S. manufacturing is on the rebound. Reports from the National Association of Manufacturing predict nearly 3 ½ million jobs will be needed during the next 10 years. However, a lack of ready-now talent could mean more than 2 million of those jobs go unfilled.

Having spent time in the trenches, I’m quick to share my passion for this industry and these jobs. But, I know there is another, less favorable, view of manufacturing. Perception tends to be that it’s a dirty industry, requiring few skills and offering minimal opportunity. Well, modern manufacturing has changed all of that. It’s time to showcase modern American manufacturers and the anticipated strong growth ahead in a way that attracts prospective candidates.

In my view, it all starts with storytelling, direct from the shop floor. Friday, Oct. 6 marks National Manufacturing Day ­– and what better moment in time to bring color to the innovative side of modern day American manufacturing? Communicate the growing career potential, connect with educators and energize young people. But don’t stop there. Use October to kick off an ongoing conversation that redefines the industry’s narrative.

HR friends and industry operators, the time is now to infuse a PR mindset into your recruiting efforts.

Here are a few ideas:

Connect with educators

  • Engage educators to involve students and host panels to discuss the future of work
  • Create job shadow opportunities to connect students to innovation or other digitally inspired activities
  • Create community-focused volunteer efforts for leaders to bring STEM lessons from your plant into the school setting


Create a cool factor for future recruiting and hiring

Today’s marketers know they must create more. More experience. More connection. More participation and more engagement.

  • HR should adopt a marketing mindset to connect every step along the employee journey with dynamic experience and high-impact storytelling.
  • Leverage your employee value proposition to create powerful messaging and collaborate with a PR partner to bring your opportunities to life through sharing on your owned and paid channels


Celebrate your workforce

An organization’s workforce represents an army of ambassadors – each with a direct impact on how their work is perceived by others. They’re proud of their work, so identify shop floor employees and equip them to share their stories.


Open your doors

Roll out the red carpet and open your plant to the public.

  • Put the cool factor on display while celebrating the professionals who are making it happen.
  • Bring to life the production process and honor the people who make it happen. Connect area residents to the names and stories behind “American Made.”


Showcase your products

  • Create compelling video to showcase your product.
  • Highlight STEM lessons, applied robotics and precision equipment involved


Flex your political muscle

You’re a job creator. Don’t let others tell your story or control your narrative.

  • Work alongside PR and HR partners as well as industry trade groups and your own public affairs team to activate your leaders and shop floor employees.
  • Equip and activate your workforce to actively engage in conversation about issues that matter most.
  • Host routine roundtable briefings and executive fly-ins with influencers, local, state and national officials


These are just a sampling of the tactics leaders should leverage to tell their story and recruit new workers. It’s a long-term effort. By bringing a PR mindset to the table, modern American manufacturing can recruit, hire, retain and inspire the next generation to engage in writing this industry’s next chapter.

Topics: manufacturing