Is Manufacturing on the Verge of Being 'Cool' Again? - Modern Distribution Management

Log In

Is Manufacturing on the Verge of Being ‘Cool’ Again?

Manufacturing still faces an image problem.

Manufacturing has an image problem. We hear time and time again that younger workers just don't see manufacturing as "cool." And their parents aren't helping either. In a 2012 survey from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, out of seven industries, manufacturing ranked fifth as a career choice. Just 35 percent of respondents said they would encourage their children to pursue a career in the industry.

But that may be changing. Martin N. Bailey, Bernard L. Schwartz Chair in Economic Policy Development at the Brookings Institute, and James Manyika, director at the McKinsey Global Institute, think modern manufacturing may in fact be on track to once again be "cool."

The two were invited by Project Syndicate to share their thoughts on the topic in advance of the World Economic Forum, taking place now in Davos, Switzerland.

They write in "Is Manufacturing 'Cool' Again?": "Global manufacturing has the potential to stage a renaissance and once again become a career of choice for the most talented."

The key is that today's manufacturing doesn’t look the same as in the American manufacturing heyday. Automation has reduced the need for line workers; at the same time, the high-tech nature of today's manufacturing environment demands more software programmers, engineers, robotics experts, data analytics specialists and designers.

Bailey and Manyika point to the automotive industry as an example of the shift. The industry is in the midst of a shift from "conventional steel-bodied cars with traditional drive trains to lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles in which electronics are as important as mechanical parts," they write.

So what needs to happen for manufacturing to once again become a choice career? The industry needs to sell itself better to the next generation of workers and to existing workers in the demand fields mentioned above who might not know what today's manufacturing is about. The National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute is trying to do just that, according to the organization's president Jennifer McNelly, who was featured in the latest episode of Executive Briefing.

Share this article

About the Author
Recommended Reading
Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Sign Up for the MDM Update Newsletter

The MDM update newsletter is your best source for news and trends in the wholesale distribution industry.

Get the MDM Update Newsletter

Wholesale distribution news and trends delivered right to your inbox.

Sign-up for our free newsletter and get:

  • Up-to-date news in a quick-to-read format
  • Free access to webcasts, podcasts and live events
  • Exclusive whitepapers, research and reports
  • And more!


articles left

Want more Premium content from MDM?

Subscribe today and get:

  • New issues twice each month
  • Unlimited access to, including 10+ years of archived data
  • Current trends analysis, market data and economic updates
  • Discounts on select store products and events

Subscribe to continue reading

MDM Premium Subscribers get:

  • Unlimited access to
  • 1 year digital subscription, with new issues twice a month
  • Trends analysis, market data and quarterly economic updates
  • Deals on select store products and events



You have one free article remaining

Subscribe to MDM Premium to get unlimited access. Your subscription includes:

  • Two new issues a month
  • Access to 10+ years of archived data on
  • Quarterly economic updates, trends analysis and market data
  • Store and event discounts

To continue reading, you must be an MDM Premium subscriber.

Join other distribution executives who use MDM Premium to optimize their business. Our insights and analysis help you enter the right new markets, turbocharge your sales and marketing efforts, identify business partners that help you scale, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Register for full access

By providing your email, you agree to receive announcements from us and our partners for our newsletter, events, surveys, and partner resources per MDM Terms & Conditions. You can withdraw consent at any time.

Learn More about Custom Reports

Request a Market Prospector Demo

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.