E S S A Y For boomers anyway. Manufacturers in the U.S. depend on baby boomer labor and they are doing whatever it takes to keep us on the job. Around 27 percent of manufacturing workers are over the age of 65.
What’s so great about baby boomers in the factory? For starters, they have experience and knowledge that younger works don’t have. They are loyal. And the best part is they need/want to work.
As enticements to stay on the job, manufacturers are offering flexible schedules, reduced work weeks, and job sharing, along with mentoring and consulting opportunities. Even the ergonomics of the shop floor are being retrofitted to reduce the physical wear and tear on older workers who want to avoid knee and back issues.
The scary aspect of this looming labor shortage for manufacturers is that it’s not just happening in factories. Think about where the next generation of plumbers and electricians are coming from. Or auto mechanics. If you think that plumbing, car engines and the household electrical systems can be engineered to be so simple that expert repair personnel is no longer needed, you are dreaming. If anything, some of these systems are going to get even more complicated as the technology behind them gets more sophisticated. That faucet that comes on automatically when the infrared sensor detects motion? It still can leak under the sink or the sensor can go on the fritz. Millennials don’t even know the meaning of “on the fritz” never mind how to replace a worn out faucet washer.
You might be thinking that robots can pick up the slack but I don’t think that’s the solution. Robots can only intuit so much and a simple short caused by worn wires in a light switch may be beyond their capability.
The solution is to keep boomers on the job and start a serious program for knowledge transfer. Not every millennial wants to be a computer programmer or app inventor. It’s time to give tradespersons the status they deserve, along with better compensation. When a plumber can make as much as a doctor, with a lot less stress, the problem may solve itself. Until then, stay on good terms with your trades people and hope that they keep on keeping on.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He’s written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.