Marsalis Leonard didn’t grow up in a gearhead family, but from the beginning of his eight years as a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Army, he was immersed in a world of skills he would never have anticipated seeking out on his own.
- “The Army was my introduction to mechanics,” said Leonard. “It taught me how different machines and processes work together, but it also taught me how to grasp hands-on knowledge and put it to use.”
A new career: That kind of experience served Leonard well when he transitioned out of the army in 2020. He had considered working in civilian aviation, but the process would have required additional education and a range of specific certificates. For Leonard, more school wasn’t a priority—and when he learned about the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get started in a new field by putting his existing capabilities to use.
- “I wanted to jump into something with the skills I already had,” said Leonard. “Heroes MAKE America seemed like a great place to enhance my skills and turn them into a new career.”
An immersive program: The MI—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—designed Heroes MAKE America as an integrated certification and career-readiness training program that helps prepare transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military spouses for careers in manufacturing. The initiative offers in-person trainings and remote training options, as well as career support and placement. So far, the program has a 90% placement rate with graduates in 42 states across the country.
A learning opportunity: While Leonard brought plenty of his own experience to the table, Heroes MAKE America still offered valuable information and practical training in industrial maintenance that he continues to use today.
- “It was very enlightening,” said Leonard. “Heroes gave you an education in basic electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics and mechanics. It taught you to read schematics and diagrams, which was probably the first thing I was able to grasp. It was very hands-on.”
A new path: Through his experience in Heroes, Leonard was hired as a maintenance technician at a Waxahachie, Texas, facility owned by Georgia-Pacific—a pulp and paper manufacturer based in Atlanta, Georgia. While the role may be different from his experience in the military, the Heroes program prepared him to take on his new challenges.
- “I learned an insane amount,” said Leonard. “At first, it seemed overwhelming the amount I didn’t know. But I also was able to see people who have been in the industry for years—and they started out as kids with no experience. So, you work hard, pay attention, ask questions and learn from your mistakes. You’ll learn something—and you’ll use that knowledge.”
Get involved: Want to support Heroes MAKE America? Click here to learn more.
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.