What the new generation thinks of the manufacturing industry

“Many people think that, in the manufacturing industry, it’s all about increasing the pace and volume of production. I believe that it’s about developing technologies that can upgrade existing products.”

Melissa, Bachelor’s student in Engineering

“I’m not sure I’m ready for a job in the sector. I think everything will really begin after my master’s degree and that I will have to retrain in order to fit in.”

Mathijs, Master’s student in Electromechanics

“My training focuses heavily on CAM or Computer Aided Manufacturing. An interesting field of work within the sector, where I believe challenging jobs are up for grabs.”

Pepijn, Master’s student in Electromechanics

“I would not look for my first job immediately in this sector. I first want to gain some experience in a smaller company, where young people might have more of a say.”

Louis, Master’s student in Industrial Engineering

“I would like a job at a manufacturing company capable of reconciling industrial with environmental needs; not at a company that makes goods for the sake of it.”

Sara, Master’s student in Electromechanics

“Frankly, the term ‘manufacturing industry’ is rarely covered in class. Instead, you hear about it at job and internship fairs. I see it as a sector that can only be discovered on-the-job.”

Nick, Master’s student in Electromechanics

“I wonder where the sector will lead us. Through innovation and automation, we can revolutionize manufacturing processes. At the same time, machines and robots seem to be performing more and more tasks previously done by humans. What does that mean for our jobs?”

Bert, Master’s student in Electromechanics

“Improve products and processes, while managing energy and resources efficiently: I think this is the top challenge inherent in the manufacturing industry.”

Jasper, Master’s student in Electromechanics

“For me, the manufacturing industry is a sector where science and technology intersect, more than ever.”

Pieter-Jan, Master’s student in Civil Engineering

An HR Manager from the manufacturing industry responds

We summarised these colourful comments into six statements which we presented to an expert in the field: Gert Thienpont, HR Manager at the sheet metalworking specialist LVD, headquartered in Gullegem.

“The manufacturing industry is a sector which makes goods for the sake of making them”

“The ‘making’ is only part of a much broader process. I therefore prefer to refer to it as development industry. The ongoing challenge for the industry is to turn ideas into concepts to obtain products that offer real solutions for a market or end user.”

“Computerized production will keep gaining in importance”

“Absolutely, but software is involved in the entire process, from the customer’s request to administration, design, production scheduling, machine control, logistics to invoicing. Our engineers help us to devise ways to integrate all those technologies and processes intelligently and efficiently.”

“It is better to gain your first experience in the manufacturing industry at a small company”

“A big company has more resources, which usually means you get more opportunities to develop your career horizontally. Of course, you’ll get to know the ins and outs of a small company faster, but your growth opportunities are limited.”

“There is not enough focus on the manufacturing industry in education”

“The industry is still suffering from an undeserved, old-fashioned – almost ‘Dickensian’ – image. Together with the education institutions, we are trying to shed this image. This is why we organise a technology academy for children in primary schools to show them the ‘factory of the 21st century’. At university level, we sponsor the chair of sheet metalworking at Leuven University.”

“Widespread automation will lead to robotization and job losses”

“Automation is mainly redefining or adding skills to existing jobs. Machines still have to be designed, protected, maintained and improved.”

“In manufacturing, science and tech intersect more than ever”

“Quite right, but there’s a lot more to it. The manufacturing industry is like a universe bringing together all aspects of globalization: science, technology, as well as finance, logistics, transport, international trade, and so on. Getting a job here definitely places you in a stimulating environment, with many opportunities for variety and growth.”