Summer is usually a time of relaxation and family togetherness, but, over the last couple of years, the economy has cast a chill over many summer family get-aways. Many households decided to forgo the usual trips to the beach or mountains in favor of stay-cations, and some adults just kept working or took some educational classes to advance their careers or just stay employed. It’s been a tough job market for the last several years, and anxious job-seekers are having a hard time getting hired, even as businesses return to profitability and growth. Many Americans remain out of work and, for young people, the unemployment rate is high, reflecting the desire of business to hire only the most talented and experienced recruits.
The general U.S. unemployment rate was 8.3 percent this past July, but for young people, unemployment increased by 836,000 from April to July 2012, compared with an increase of 745,000 for the same period in 2011. This summer, the share of young people employed was about 50 percent, which means that the other 50 percent were not engaged in building their business experiences . Yet, this summer would have been a great time to shore up the talent pipeline, especially for manufacturers who still have unfilled openings and can’t find the right talent.
Parents and colleges, worried about the lack of good jobs for graduates, know that students, especially in the liberal arts, need some “real world experience” before venturing out of the family and college nest. So business schools have begun launching intensive summer courses aimed at liberal arts students to expose them to career paths they might never have considered or known existed . And it’s been extraordinarily helpful in preparing youth for the world of work. “I realized pretty fast that I had no idea what I was doing,” said one economics senior. “I learned a lot in school, but I didn’t know how to really get a job or be successful in one”.
These business-school-run summer work experiences focus on helping students understand how a business operates, and teaches young people skills such as collaboration, communication, social media, digital technology, and strategy and marketing.
Imagine what a program like this could do for manufacturers – especially “place-based” small manufacturers with roots in their communities or regions! Small manufacturers could recruit students of all stripes to spend summers in their firms so that they could really understand what today’s advanced manufacturing is.
Although there’s been a plethora of “awareness campaigns” over the last decade trying to get the message out about 21st century manufacturing, manufacturing still suffers from image problems. Opportunities such as this summer program could really go a long way in helping our next generation of manufacturing employees get excited about its possibilities for them. The Millennials are nothing if not comfortable with the global, digital and sometimes virtual world that manufacturing has become. But they don’t know how those skills translate into a manufacturing career, so this model could help them catch fire. The practical experiences of a summer manufacturing internship could be used as the first “gateway” in hiring. Both the intern and the firm’s owner could decide about the “fit” and then prepare accordingly for eventual employment. Recruiting could become more long-range and systematized, eliminating some of the risk of hiring for both manufacturer and employee. Talk about a “win-win” – this is really it! To find out more about how this might work for manufacturers, contact any of the following education institutions: Southern Methodist, Stanford, Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, California at Berkley, or Tuck Business Bridge Program at Dartmouth or other well-established programs.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/youth.nr0.htm. August 21, 2012
 Inside Higher Education. “Summer business programs help liberal arts student with career prospects”. August 24, 2012.