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Posted November 01, 2016 by

Why recent college grads shouldn’t overlook manufacturing industry careers

Photo courtesy of stockunlimited.com

Photo courtesy of stockunlimited.com

Seeking a career in manufacturing? Recent college grads should be sure to know this:

Manufacturing today is not your grandparent’s manufacturing. Take a job at a door and window company. Saying one works at a door and window company may not sound cool. But saying one works at an industry leader that has more than 75 active patents, is constantly developing new products, and creating new composite materials while using Smart Home sensors to revolutionize the door and window company – now that sounds cool. The company doing just that is Andersen Corporation, an international window and door manufacturing enterprise employing more than 10,000 people at more than 20 locations, with headquarters near St. Paul, MN.

“The misconception that we hear most often is that there is nothing cool and innovative about doors and windows,” says Jennifer Swenson, Talent Acquisition Lead at Andersen Corporation.

At the core, recent college grads may view manufacturing careers as factory jobs – partially thanks to old stereotypes bestowed by parents and grandparents. But look closer and dig deeper – and recent college grads will find opportunities with innovative companies using cutting edge technology, engineering, and research and development to manufacture the next big thing.

The manufacturing industry allows recent college graduates to pursue “innovative, creative, and hands-on careers developing, testing, and reinventing products using the latest technologies and environmental and sustainability best practices,” says Swenson.

Jobs to be filled

There are roughly 600,000 unfilled manufacturing job openings in the United States and employers are demanding highly skilled workers in order to meet their needs, according to Manpower’s Future of the Manufacturing Workforce report.

“We are at a turning point in the manufacturing workforce environment in North America,” says Tom Davenport, author of the report. “There are major changes underway in the demand and supply for manufacturing workers – many driven by new technologies that will require new strategies and tactics for both companies and employees.”

Employers such as Andersen are seeking recent college grads and entry-level employees with these backgrounds:

  • Engineering: Chemical, mechanical, manufacturing, industrial, material science, plastics, electrical, environmental
  • Supply chain: Logistics, operations, sourcing, finance and accounting, IT, marketing, sales, human resources
  • Talent acquisition: staffing, generalist, learning and development, HRIT, communications, safety, sustainability, disabilities management, facilities, customer service, administrative support

According to Manpower’s Future of the Manufacturing Workforce report, employers also need skilled workers in roles that require extensive training such as machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, and technicians. The industry also faces a generational skills gap as existing employees are nearing retirement age, creating an even greater demand for workers, especially those with engineering and IT backgrounds, says Swenson.

To fill those gaps, employers like Andersen are working hard to connect with job seekers at colleges and universities across the country. Campus recruiting is crucial in the manufacturing and current college students should pay close attention to campus recruiting fairs to find out when they can connect with manufacturers.

When searching for internships in the manufacturing industry, be sure to research the company before applying, or meeting at a campus recruiting event. Prepare in advance to secure an internship with a manufacturing company.

“Our interns are a true pipeline of talent for full-time positions as interns have the first opportunity to interview for any open opportunities before they leave at the end of the summer,” says Swenson. “We have converted a number of interns into full-time roles over the last few years.  In addition to meeting students at campus events, we begin our interview process on campus, and then invite our top candidates for additional interviews on site, as well as to tour our facilities.”

Soft skills important

Recent college grads must also have the soft skills employers seek. Those include communication, collaboration, leadership, curiosity, drive, determination, problem solving, and the ability to build relationships, says Swenson.

Women in Manufacturing

Careers in manufacturing provide wonderful opportunities for women, and employers and organizations are working hard to promote these opportunities. Women in Manufacturing is a more than 500-member-strong non-profit national association dedicated to supporting, promoting and inspiring women pursuing or working in a career in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing Day is a nationally recognized event that is designed to expand knowledge and improve the general public perception of manufacturing careers, including those for women.

“There are a wide variety of rewarding roles both directly in the manufacturing environment and supporting manufacturing that can be attractive to women,” says Swenson. “Being a part of a team that creates a tangible product that enhances the beauty and energy efficiency of people’s homes is very rewarding for the window and door industry in particular. IT, engineering, sales, marketing, and many other opportunities exist at manufacturing companies just like they do at service and retail organizations. I would encourage women to think outside the traditional stereotype of manufacturing and realize that there are many ways to contribute to a manufacturing company’s success.”

Andersen also partners with organizations like the Society of Women Engineers to share the story of the company, as well as the stories of the number of women leaders in all areas at Andersen.

“It is important for us to continue the conversation about women in manufacturing, as well as celebrate and share the success of women in this industry so students see beyond the stereotype,” says Swenson.

When searching for opportunities in manufacturing, recent college grads should look for employers who provide training and growth opportunities. Andersen provides a number of career development programs for recent college grads that focus on research, development and innovation, operations, logistics, sales leadership, sales development, product manufacturing, lean/six sigma, and much more. Anderson also offer new college grads an opportunity to connect with other young Andersen professionals as they onboard into the company through the Andersen Young Professionals Network’s (AYPN), which helps support and help young employees grow by providing additional opportunities to engage cross functionally, learn developmental skills, and build relationships.

Top manufacturing employers understand the need to stay on top of recruiting trends to attract top talent.

“In order to continue to be the leader in our industry for over 110 years, we are constantly being innovative and staying competitive in our market place,” says Swenson.

Recent college grads can find many exciting and innovative opportunities in the manufacturing industry. Check them out. Your grandparents and parents will be surprised – and proud you did. And so will you.

Want to learn more about manufacturing careers? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connecting with us on LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Jennifer Swenson, Talent Acquisition/Campus Relations at Andersen Corporation

Jennifer Swenson, Talent Acquisition/Campus Relations at Andersen Corporation.

Jennifer Swenson is a Talent Acquisition Lead and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at Andersen Corporation, where she manages the company’s college relations and summer internship experience. Swenson is working to continue to build the Andersen brand on campuses across the country, as well as drive strategies to increase diversity and talent pipelines, as well as consistently create an excellent candidate experience. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.