Machine and Process Management

Millennials – The right generation at the perfect time

I am a baby-boomer. As with most generations, as we have aged we tend to ridicule the younger generations coming up behind us. In our case, I have talked with a number of peers who have expressed their concern with the entitled, “video game generation” that do not appear to take much of anything, other than video games, very seriously. This is particularly true in industry where there is an uneven age distributions with an inordinate number of baby-boomers with a huge amount of experience getting ready to retire. Most likely Millennials will fill the void. There seems to be significant doubt that they are up to the task.

I must admit that this is not my perspective or my experience in dealings with the Millennial generation. I have actually found the Millennials I have worked with to be very different than the stereotype. They have a number of characteristics that make them the right people for replacing the retiring baby-boomers.

Right generation Picture1I cannot cover all the attributes of Millennials in this short discourse, but there are three that truly stand out. First, Millennials are by leaps and bounds the most technology savvy generation ever. They can use the technology baby-boomers (and others) have created much more effectively than those who created it. The technology to power industry developed over the past 5 decades is very impressive, but the baby-boomers who developed much of it are not very good at using it. Millennials are!

Second, they tend to be team-oriented to a much greater degree than baby-boomers. Baby-boomers were trained to be individualists, solving problems on their own. Millennials love to work together to solve problems. Over the past century, industrial organizations have evolved to be comprised of almost impenetrable silos of talent. If the people in the organizational silos would finally start to effectively collaborate to solve cross-silo problems, they may be able to create huge amounts of value. The teaming tendency of Millennials may finally result in real collaboration.

Finally, Millennials tend to be much more altruistic in their occupational goals. Industry and industrial automation are in the position of being able to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as available energy, clean water, world hunger, health and a clean and sustainable environment. The altruism of Millennials may be exactly what is needed to finally meet these challenges.

Yes – Millennials may just be the right generation at the perfect time!


4 Responses
  1. David Riojas

    I completely agree with Dr. Martin’s assessment of the millennial generation. I’ve had the good fortune to recruit, hire, train, and watch many of these young professionals develop into competent engineers and technicians who are passionate about instrumentation and automation. I’m confident they have what it takes to carry the baton for the next generation of automation professionals. Our biggest problem is making this generation aware of automation as a viable and rewarding career path.

    • Peter Martin Peter Martin

      Thank you David,

      I appreciate your feedback and your point about making a career path in industrial automation attractive to this young generation. This is our challenge as an industry. It is a shame that many very talented young STEM students appear to be more attracted to videogame development than helping to solve the world’s greatest challenges through the effective application of automation technologies. When you develop a video game you merely have a game. When you use automation to help solve energy, environmental cleanliness, hunger, thirst etc. you are truly making the world a better place. I truly believe the younger generation does not understand the incredibly positive impact they can have through a career in automation. It is up to us to let them know.

  2. Brian Gregg

    Dr. Martin, I completely agree with you. The young people we’ve brought on board, whether interns or engineers just starting on their careers are truly impressive in their ability to grasp the technology and their vision of how things can be done more effectively. I prefer to think that they are the bright hope for the future. I hope we can get enough of them on board before we lose all of the wisdom of baby boomers.

    • Peter Martin Peter Martin

      Thank you Brian. You are absolutely correct with respect to attracting the Millennials to a career in industry and industrial automation. We will be losing a large number of baby boomers (including me) over the next few years and we will need these talented Millennials to come in and fill the need. Perhaps all of us in this field can take on the task of communicating to up and coming students on the impact they could have through a career in industry. it is industry that will be at the forefront of solving world energy, water, hunger, housing and environmental sustainability. With the altruistic interests of the emerging Millennials the hope of being part of the solution to these great challenges should be appealing. it is really up to us to pull them in. as a group we can help this young talent base to realize the success that i know they have the potential to accomplish.