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8 SMT007 MAGAZINE I NOVEMBER 2023 Nolan's Notes by Nolan Johnson, I-CONNECT007 Gen Z in Manufacturing I would imagine you've asked yourself, as I have a time or two: How do we attract new talent to our industry, fill our open positions, and preserve the deep, intuitive knowledge of our most veteran employees now on the verge of retirement? ese are crucial questions, indeed, and to answer them, we must consider four perspectives: employers, early career workers, academic institutions, and students. But where do you begin to address the problem? Are we seeking the right type of employee? Does manufacturing hold the atten- tion and interest of the new generation, espe- cially with competition from the programming giants? Are high schools adequately address- ing the interests of students who enjoy hands- on, problem-solving type of work? Are college graduates prepared for the types of job oppor- tunities in front of them? Do future employees have the so skills to maintain their employ- ment? Let's start with secondary schools. It doesn't take long in a conversation for one person to say something to the effect of, "I wish schools still had shop classes. ose specific high school grads were my ideal new hires back in the day." While the industrial arts departments histori- cally were great preparation for manufactur- ing jobs, those programs disappeared at most U.S. high schools as they made room for dif- ferent types of pursuits. e gap, I've noticed, has been filled by more science and technol- ogy classes, and extracurricular options such as STEM-based robotics teams—where you tend to find students more interested in pro- gramming than CAM. FIRST Robotics, which starts in grade school, for example, puts robot kits in front of students. By middle school, these students gain deeper familiarity with mechanical, elec- tronic, programming, and testing disciplines. By high school, students are custom-building

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