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How Manufacturers Are Investing in Their Future Workforce

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How are manufacturers developing a workforce for a fast-changing industry in a fast-changing decade? Recently, Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee sat down with leaders at Union Pacific Railroad and the Caterpillar Foundation to find out.

Union Pacific Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations and Chief Administrative Officer Scott Moore discussed his company’s efforts to recruit more women and young people to the manufacturing industry. Caterpillar Foundation President Asha Varghese weighed in on Caterpillar Foundation’s efforts to support training opportunities for the military community and introduce high school students to innovative manufacturing careers.

What Union Pacific is up to: The Union Pacific and MI partnership is centered around a program called Careers on Track. This three-year, $3 million initiative is aimed at changing perceptions of the rail industry and encouraging women and youth to pursue careers in the field.

  • As part of Careers on Track, Union Pacific and the MI developed Future Creators, a digital STEM curriculum focused on transportation, distribution and logistics.
  • Future Creators has been used in more than 24,000 middle schools across the country with 80% of students increasing their knowledge of STEM careers.

How they’re doing it: The MI and Union Pacific created a 3D digital experience of a Union Pacific yard and locomotive that is designed to help women and young people explore technical fields interactively.

  • Their other outreach efforts include 30-second PSA-style videos that showcase female employees and their stories to highlight career paths at Union Pacific and events hosted through the MI’s STEP Women’s Initiative.
  • Union Pacific has reached more than 250,000 women through this content, demonstrating what women just like them can achieve in the manufacturing industry.

Union Pacific says: “We’ve always known diversity is key at Union Pacific, and to achieve that, there are deliberate things we need to do,” said Moore. “We’re going to have to reach people. Around 90% of our workforce is union, primarily in the field, across 23 states and 7,000 communities. We have to get in those communities—and The Manufacturing Institute gave us the tools to do that well.”

What Caterpillar is doing: The Caterpillar Foundation’s partnership with the MI is investing in workforce readiness and building an empowered and skilled manufacturing workforce.

  • This partnership is expanding the MI’s Heroes MAKE America program, which provides certification and career-readiness training to transitioning service members, veterans, military spouses and others who work in or with the armed services.
  • One of the partnership’s first efforts was to create a fully virtual program to further Heroes’ reach regardless of physical location.
  • The first 100% virtual Certified Production Technician training program was launched in late 2021, in partnership with Texas State Technical College and TRANSFRVR.

In addition, the Caterpillar Foundation is also working with the MI’s FAME program—a 21-month apprenticeship program founded by Toyota that grants certifications and prepares young people for high-skilled jobs in the manufacturing workforce.

  • Most recently, the MI and the Caterpillar Foundation created a new FAME chapter in Seguin, Texas.

Caterpillar says: “Caterpillar Foundation focuses on resilient communities, and we understand the importance of investing in local communities in order to ensure that we’re providing them with the right resources, with the right services and with the right skills for employability,” said Varghese. “What really attracted us to the MI is first and foremost that strategic alignment…focusing on that untapped talent.”

The last word: “As a nonprofit, the MI depends on the investments of corporate and philanthropic leaders to tackle the workforce crisis in manufacturing with innovative, exciting workforce solutions,” said Lee. “The MI’s work has expanded to include a full collection of initiatives that not only train individuals for rewarding careers but also provide the thought leadership, best practices and learning networks that manufacturers need to address their workforce issues.”

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