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Top Manufacturing and Trade Professions

Generation Z, or those born between 1997 and 2012, are expected to account for 27% of the workforce by 2025. Unlike the generations that came before it, Gen Z comprises true digital natives who not only welcome the implementation of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), but quickly adapt to them. Other Gen Z characteristics are an entrepreneurial mindset, the desire to have a meaningful impact at work, and a strong sense of loyalty. Top Manufacturing and Trade Professions.If industrial businesses can attract and retain them, Gen Zers certainly has much to offer. However, new Xometry research shows that 83% of manufacturing companies are experiencing labor shortages. The hardest-to-fill roles are entry-level, including assemblers and fabricators, engineers, maintenance, repair, and operations workers.What are members of Gen Z searching for in their careers, and which manufacturing roles can best accommodate their preferences?

What Does Gen Z Want?

Gen Z’s top priorities in the workplace are:

1. Career Progression

An estimated 74% of Gen Z are ambitious about learning new skills and developing professionally. They’ll actively seek out employers who invest in training and upskilling, offer growth opportunities, and encourage employees to take autonomy of their career paths.

McKinsey found that the number-one reason Gen Z workers say they plan to leave manufacturing jobs is the lack of career development and advancement.

2. Flexibility

Workplace flexibility, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a fairly new phenomenon for all generations except Gen Z.

As they are new to the workforce, Gen Zers have never sought employment at a time without hybrid and remote working or flexible hours. This means they are the generation most likely to shun employers that do not provide flexible working options.

3. Impact

Gen Z is a socially conscious generation eager to engage in work that has impact and purpose. According to McKinsey, it is the only cohort that considers “meaning” as a top two reasons to take, keep, or quit a job.

4. Financial Security

Although they value salary less than every other generation, Gen Zers aspire to financial security, perhaps due to growing up during the Great Recession. Indeed, the Barna Group reports that achieving financial independence before 30 is a top priority for 64% of Gen Zers.

5. Stability

Job security is a key concern for many Gen Zers entering the workforce today. Quite put off by the perceived volatility of Big Tech companies, this generation is keen to secure roles in more stable industries.

The Top Manufacturing, Trade Jobs for Gen Z Offer These Things

1. Career Progression and Flexibility

Jobs spanning a wide range of manufacturing and trade sectors can offer employees flexibility and long-term career opportunities.

What’s important for Gen Zers is identifying employers that regard their workers as critical investments and not simply as costs. McKinsey reported on a manufacturer restructuring its workforce management system to allow for greater flexibility. As a result, staffing levels rose by 25%, and production increased by 20%.

Another organization evaluated by McKinsey introduced a comprehensive career development program. About 90% of employees who opted into the program were still employed by the company a year later.

2. Stability

Various manufacturing and trade professions can offer the job security Gen Zers craves.

The aerospace industry, for example, has long held a reputation for career stability and, as such, it is attracting a growing number of young professionals. In 2023, Gen Z search interest for aerospace organizations increased rapidly, with RTX noting a 209% increase in search interest.

The aerospace and defense company also reported that around 25% of its recent hires are from Gen Z. The industry’s use of cutting-edge technology and boundless career opportunities are other major selling points for Gen Z.

3. Purpose

Manufacturers that demonstrate an ongoing and meaningful commitment to addressing world issues, such as climate change, sustainability, supply chain transparency, and poverty, will be particularly interesting to Gen Zers, who are eager to find purpose in their day-to-day work.

Another way for Gen Z to find meaningful work is through green manufacturing jobs and other positions that have a high social impact. This includes the following roles: solar photovoltaic installer, wind turbine technician, renewable energy engineer, and environmental science technician, as well as any position associated with the manufacture of and infrastructure for Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Statistics show Gen Z workers are actively pursuing these types of roles, with the demand for wind turbine technicians alone growing at an impressive 45% each year.

4. Financial Security

According to Gallup research, the percentage of Americans who expressed high confidence in higher education fell from 57% to 36% in the past decade. The soaring cost of college education is perhaps the major driver behind this shift.

Two-thirds of high-school students do not consider a college degree necessary, while most young people believe blue-collar jobs offer better security than white-collar ones.

More young people are pursuing roles in skilled labor in fields such as construction, carpentry, welding, plumbing, and electrics. Vocations such as these, once regarded as dirty and low-end, have numerous benefits for Gen Zers. Not only do they offer on-the-job training in the form of apprenticeships, plentiful career opportunities, access to cutting-edge technologies, and good pay, but they also come with none of the college debt and years of unpaid study.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dubbed Gen Z the Toolbelt generation.

According to Xometry research, other high-paying professions in industry include process engineering, manufacturing maintenance engineering, energy management, plant management, and technical product management.

Can the Industrial Sector Make Gen Zers Happy?

Compared to other generations, more Gen Zers say they are open to the idea of working in a manufacturing role.

That’s no surprise, considering that the industrial sector is so well positioned to accommodate Gen Z’s varied needs, be it job security, good pay, the opportunity to carry out meaningful work, access to cutting-edge technology, a healthy work-life balance, or career advancement opportunities.

So long as industrial employers build it, the Gen Zers will come.

Source: Top Manufacturing and Trade Professions

Image Credit: Ground Picture /

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