Changemakers: 3M Strategy Attracts Tech Savvy Talent to Manufacturing


Sean Mullan at 3M explains how the company works with local schools and colleges to attract tech-focused students to careers in modern manufacturing.

Published jan. 16, 2020

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Recruiting for manufacturing jobs is an uphill battle. For some, manufacturing means dirty, dangerous, and repetitive work. Others worry that manufacturing jobs will be outsourced or automated. Younger workers, who are hyper connected to the digital world, think manufacturing is old-fashioned and outdated. Whatever the reason, there is a stigma attached to manufacturing jobs that makes it hard to fill open positions. But the stigma just isn’t true.

Automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and the internet of things are revolutionizing industrial production. Many jobs that are repetitive, unsafe, or physically difficult have been eliminated by technology, or will be soon. What’s left are jobs with higher pay and benefits and opportunities for promotion and work with modern, complex technology. Many of these jobs—and there are lots of them—don’t require a four-year college degree, but they do require creative thought and continuous learning.

Sean Mullan, leader of 3M’s Manufacturing and Academic Partnership (MAP) program, is fighting to change perceptions about manufacturing, while also helping 3M prepare for the changing career landscape. 3M is one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies with more than 91,000 employees in 205 plants in 70 countries. Its products range from Scotch Tape and Scotch-Brite cleaning supplies for consumers to electronics and medical devices for businesses.

Finding talent for manufacturing careers is a strategic imperative for 3M. The company’s efforts in workforce planning offer a concrete example of how employers are preparing for the future of work by putting talent first.

JFF’s Carey O’Connor recently sat down with Mullan to find out how he is changing people’s hearts and minds about manufacturing jobs and why this work is so important to him.

Work helps us feel better about ourselves—it gives us pride and purpose in life.

Sean Mullan

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JFF's Changemakers series tells the stories of people at the center of a growing movement that’s reshaping the way companies invest in the well-being and advancement of their workers.

Who are the Changemakers? They are corporate visionaries who are stepping up and stepping out to do something extraordinary. The Changemakers are passionate about their companies and intuitively see how their businesses can positively impact the lives of employees and their communities. They combine a business sense with human empathy to create opportunities for others to improve their lives while also achieving the company’s business objectives. They want to make the world a better place to live and work.

We invite you to meet the Changemakers and to help us celebrate and support their collective efforts.