“If you think about it,” said Ryko Solutions CEO Steven L’Heureux, “a carwash is a giant robot. You’ve got robotic technology, software technology, and sensing technology that all go into play so that the consumer, when they go into an automated carwash, gets a bright shiny clean car.”

What struck me about this DesMoines Register news video is that it took a news team to show the downright sexiness of something as mundane as a carwash. 

Ryko Solutions carwash
(c) The DesMoines Register

I took a peek through Ryko’s YouTube channel. The company does a great job using video to showcase customer testimonials and its products.

But as I watched the videos, I asked myself, “What if Ryko used some of its video budget to attract smart kids getting ready to leave college?”

Negative perceptions about manufacturing deter young people

In its 2013 Industry Market Barometer, “Technology Transforms Manufacturing into a Hotbed of Innovation,” ThomasNet notes that “nearly three quarters [of respondents] (73 percent) say negative perceptions persist that influence young people to disregard [manufacturing] as a career path. There is a need to revamp the image manufacturing has for many young people as an undesirable occupation.”

What are some of these negative perceptions? Having been in manufacturing almost my entire life, my educated guess is that young people — and their parents — consider manufacturing to be:

  • Dirty, greasy, sweaty work
  • Geared for people who didn’t do well academically in high school
  • A dead-end career-wise
  • Comprised of monotonous, brain-numbing tasks
  • Low-paying
  • Unstable due to past events such as off-shoring

Because of these negative perceptions, manufacturers now face a huge challenge: replacing an aging workforce. According to the manufacturers ThomasNet surveyed, 78% have workforces comprised of Baby Boomers ages 45 – 65; of these 35% are ages 55 – 64.

However, the report authors indicate, “there’s a disconnect with the upward trajectory of manufacturing and the lack of urgency to recruit the next generation of workers.

In the survey, three-quarters of manufacturers report that 25 percent or less of their workforce are in the Generation Y age group.

“The time to cultivate a new workforce is now,” say the report authors.

What if . . . companies like Ryko communicated directly with Gen Z and Millennials?

As I stated, Ryko Solutions has done a great job using video to attract potential buyers of car washes — and obviously, it’s doing a great job at it.

But what if a company like Ryko made an effort to attract up-and-coming engineers and highly-skilled workers — such as the young men and women who compete in robotic competitions?

I’m thinking engineers and others from within manufacturing companies could work with these teams either as adult leaders or mentors.

Think of the synergy and exchange of ideas between these bright and innovative kids and a successful manufacturing company!

Both would learn so much from each other. Most importantly, the manufacturer would learn how Millennials think, what excites them, and how to communicate with them in new and fresh ways.

As part of its partnership, the manufacturer could have the team — or even the Junior or Senior classes of local schools public and private — to its facility for a day-long, hands-on tour. (No need to wait for Manufacturing Day or “Take Your Child to Work Day.”)

Think about how such a partnership would greatly change the negative perceptions of manufacturing:

  • “Wow! I’d get to design giant robots? Awesome!”
  • “OMG! You mean everything on the factory line is connected to a network — and you need people to manage the ‘brains,’ or analyze the data or code custom APIs that talk to each other? I could so do that.”

Now manufacturing is exciting and a career choice to consider. Young people see the innovation, expertise . . . and dare I say it . . . sexiness that is manufacturing today.

The manufacturer, if it made a point to reach out to high-school and college robotic teams (and other types of clubs / teams like them) could hire these young people for internships — and over time, as full-time employees. No need to do expensive job fairs or post bland job descriptions online.

Win – win – win.