I have written about GenEdge (also called Gen Z or as Homelanders) as a generation poised to excel in manufacturing. Born after 1995, Edgers grew up assuming that tech ability and hands-on "hacking" are part of a basic skill set, not add-ons. And having grown up digital, they are hungry for DIY, tactile experiences. Edgers are into baking, building, carving and coding. Since elementary school, they’ve used YouTube to find out how to fix a bicycle or plant a garden. In terms of trends, GenEdge is accelerating the Maker Movement started by their Millennial and Gen X parents.
It’s pretty clear that GenEdge will show up and perform in the manufacturing sector if the promised renaissance of "Made in the USA" production shows up for them.
Will manufacturing jobs be there for this pragmatic, willing-to-work generation? I’m beginning to think the answer is qualified yes. Here's why.
Manufacturing Comes in Many Flavors.
Yes, mass production and sweatshop jobs will continue to go offshore to low-cost labor environments. But high-value, precise production does not benefit from low-cost, low-skill labor. As manufacturing becomes increasingly high-tech, it becomes less likely to go abroad so long as we have a new generation of workers, in this case GenEdge, prepared with the skills.
Global Supply Chains Are Vulnerable.
When West Coast ports shut down recently, we were reminded that global supply chains stretched over hemispheres are vulnerable to disruption and delay.
Jobs Are There. We Have Tech-Sector Shortages Already.
In the US, we have shortages of engineers, technicians and skilled tradespeople. Whenever I talk with material handler or supply chain execs, they point to tech jobs that need candidates. In fact, name the industry and I’ll show you tech shortages. If, and this is a big if, we can educate GenEdge for tech jobs, they will support a growing, returning manufacturing base in the US. TWEET THIS In fact, given the burgeoning Maker Initiative in education, companies that ally with school systems to educate GenEdge now will create an advantage for themselves in the labor market soon.
Low-cost Labor Has Been Oversold.
Cheap labor helps make a product affordable, but it doesn’t make a product better. Manufacturers interested in quality will increasingly look for ways to keep producer and consumer close, making products more responsive to consumer tastes and development cycles shorter.
Hands-on, Get-dirty Work Appeals to GenEdge.
On a final note, I often incorporate video into my presentations, and one powerful ad I’ve used when talking about GenEdge is an American Giant piece that emphasizes hard, hands-on, get-dirty work. This vid strikes a nerve with all generations, including hoodie-wearing GenEdge.
This video strikes a nerve for a reason. If the US is on the edge of crisis and reboot (and that is what we generational types believe), the American Giant video catches the spirit of this moment in history. Manufacturing will be at the heart of what will emerge economically and culturally, and GenEdge is poised to run with it.
Generational expert and keynote speaker, Amy Lynch helps the generations understand each other. She has spoken to 100s of groups from MTV and Comcast to Boeing, J&J and the staff of the U.S. Senate. Contact Amy about your next event.