How to reach high school students? Manufacturers try going straight to their parents

As the need for new talent ramps up, manufacturing companies are increasingly reaching out to parents to convince their children to consider a career in manufacturing. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that targeting parents is employers’ latest strategy as they seek to fill their talent pipeline:

In Story County, Iowa, where the unemployment rate is 1.4%, Kreg Enterprises Inc. held its first “Parents’ Night” earlier this year to tour careers in toolmaking. Toyota Motor Corp’s plant in Indiana held its first “Parents’ Night Out” in October and plans events for January and March.

The recruiting tactic aims to persuade today’s highly involved moms and dads that manufacturing work can lead to satisfying—and lucrative—careers for their children with the added benefit of keeping them nearby.

It also reflects the strain low unemployment has put on manufacturers, which have 400,000 open positions, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers are building on parents’ growing concern about the high cost of a four-year college education, according to the Journal:

In a time when many parents are worried about the cost of college, employers are spreading the message that teens with skills to fix machinery or design products are highly valued and that companies will even pay for them to attend school.

In Greenville, South Carolina, for example, the local Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a manufacturing-themed “Parents’ Night” for the parents of high school seniors:

There, recruiters from Michelin North America Inc. promoted a program in which the tire maker covers costs for students to complete a two-year program in mechatronics at a technical college, while they work 20 hours a week.

After finishing the program, the students are eligible to be hired as full-time technicians. Annual pay starts around $53,000, with eligibility for overtime and benefits that include tuition reimbursement for future degrees, said Leesa Owens, Michelin’s director of state, local government and community relations.

The Washington-D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers is showing the way on outreach to parents:

The push to directly market to parents came after surveys showed they held dated views, envisioning manufacturing as grimy factories and production-line jobs, said Erin Streeter of the National Association of Manufacturers.

In February, the trade group began a social-media campaign aimed at wooing parents. “Parents are the missing part of this. Parents have a lot of influence,” said Jacob Castillo, the economic development manager for the workforce agency in Larimer, County, Colo., where the unemployment rate is 2.3%. The agency helped organize the parents’ night, hosted by a coalition of manufacturers, at Woodward [Inc., an engine and components plant] in Fort Collins, Colo.

The company’s pitch to parents?

Their children, they were told, could have great, well-paying careers while being “the next generation of makers.”