Few recent graduates appear to be focused on pursuing careers in the industrial sector. Perhaps the traditional dirty and rusty images associated with such careers, in contrast to the perceived glamour of other professions, have caused millennials to look for careers outside of industry. In this article, a millennial (Jason) and a boomer (Peter) make a case for pursuing industrial careers by discussing the unique characteristics of the two different generations.
Baby boomers complain about the superficiality and work ethic of millennials, while millennials complain about the rigidness and lack of acceptance of baby boomers. There is some truth in both perspectives. Yet the same attributes that cause consternation may be the basis for why millennials may be best suited to pick up the industrial mantle from boomers – to drive industrial
operations to new levels of performance.
Millennials are more altruistic in choice of profession than the baby boomers were. Baby boomers were born after the war and recession years. Their parents tended to push them toward high-earning careers. Millennials come out of years of prosperity, which has ultimately contributed to a more benevolent perspective and desire to examine other cultures first hand. They often spend part of their twenties studying or working overseas. These are ideal attributes for selecting a career in industry since the end-goal of improving industry is a much better world for humanity. Our world needs millennials to step forward and solve some of the greatest challenges humanity faces by driving industry forward.
Over the past 50 years, baby boomers working in industrial sectors have built technological solutions that have significantly improved industrial operations’ performance. Boomers coming into industrial careers were taught to completely understand all aspects of the operation of the machinery and process equipment, the production processes, and the chemistry, physics, biology and mechanics required to make industry work efficiently and safely. When it came to computer-based technology, the boomers’ approach was similar. They tended to learn how a computer worked right down to the logic circuits and machine programming language. This approach and these skills were ideal for the development of computer-based technological solutions from their inception to make industrial operations work effectively. But baby boomers have never been very comfortable using the high-tech inventions they developed. It is the proficiency of millennials that complements this approach.
On the other hand, millennials grew up with this technology. They are infinitely more comfortable using computer-based devices than any previous generation. Millennials may not need to understand these devices right down to the base components, as the boomers did, but they can really make them work. A fun experiment along these lines is to provide a millennial and a baby boomer a new video game and ask them to become proficient playing the game. By the time the boomer has finished the tutorial, the millennial may be on Level 3. Millennials tend to learn technology by using it and get better with further usage. This is an ideal attribute for today’s industrial worker who has to be proficient at making the technology the baby boomers developed work to optimize industrial operations. Millennials will also be responsible and ready to help advance the high impact applications of the future, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing, and other biometric technologies which will propel existing industrial organizations.
Characteristics Translate into Unique Qualification
Focusing on technologies of the future, the image of industrial jobs as “dirty and rusty” is typically way off base – a 20th century view. Some of the highest levels of technology today are implemented in industrial sectors. For example, autonomous, self-operating automobiles. Technology in industry has been advancing to produce autonomous and optimally operating industrial assets, with the industrial assets performing work that is beneficial to mankind. As technology advances with the guidance of the millennial generation, new levels of industrial production will be able to be attained safely and with positive environmental impact.
In fact, there is an oil and petrochemical complex in India that produces a positive environmental impact by utilizing certain plants throughout the operations that convert and breakdown carbon emissions. There are also technologies that act as carbon dioxide vacuum cleaners when attached to carbon emitting electric power plants, ultimately creating carbon negative factories. These types of solutions have just begun to positively impact our global environment. The mindset and positive attributes the millennial generation can bring to industry is bound to advance such solutions to a much greater extent.
Opportunities for Students
Counselors, teachers, and students seem to have been exploring careers outside of the industrial sector for the last few decades. Industrial workers are now retiring at increasing rates, creating a significant industrial worker shortage. These positions use the highest technology and are solving some of humanity’s biggest challenges. These are good, productive, and valuable professions well suited for millennials based on their unique characteristics. As both a millennial and a baby boomer, we suggest that millennials take a closer look at industrial careers to see how the emerging talent matches the challenges. Industrial careers can be very rewarding in many ways and will be extremely valuable to our world.
Jason Dodier is responsible for the Federal Civilian business within Schneider Electric. He has worked in a variety of leadership functions globally. He has worked in positions
based in North America, Middle East, and Europe. He is currently based in Washington, D.C.
Peter G. Martin, Ph.D. is Vice President Innovation and Marketing at Schneider Electric. Dr. Martin has over 37 years of experience in industrial control and automation and holds multiple patents. Dr. Martin currently resides in the greater Boston, MA area.
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The article “A Baby Boomer and a Millennial on the Value of Industrial Careers“, by Jason Dodier and Peter Martin, originally appeared in NCDA’s web magazine, Career Convergence, at www.ncda.org. Copyright © December 2016. Reprinted with permission.