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Manufacturers Unveil Competitiveness Agenda Ahead of Midterm Elections

“Competing to Win” offers a path for bringing the country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the midterm elections, the National Association of Manufacturers released its policy roadmap, “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint featuring immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. It is also a roadmap for policymakers on the laws and regulations needed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in the months and years ahead.

With the country facing rising prices, snarled supply chains and geopolitical turmoil, manufacturers are outlining an actionable competitiveness agenda that Americans across the political spectrum can support. “Competing to Win” includes the policies manufacturers in America will need in place to continue driving the country forward.

“‘Competing to Win’ offers a path for bringing our country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “The NAM is putting forward a plan filled with ideas that policymakers could pursue immediately, including solutions to urgent problems, such as energy security, immigration reform, supply chain disruptions, the ongoing workforce shortage and more. Manufacturers have shown incredible resilience through difficult times, employing more workers now than before the pandemic, but continued resilience is not guaranteed without the policies that are critical to the state of manufacturing in America.”

The NAM and its members will leverage “Competing to Win” to shape policy debates ahead of the midterm elections, in the remainder of the 117th Congress and at the start of the 118th Congress—including in direct engagement with lawmakers, for grassroots activity, across traditional and digital media and through events in key states and districts as we did following the initial rollout of the roadmap in 2016.

The document focuses on 12 areas of action, and all policies are rooted in the values that have made America exceptional and keep manufacturing strong: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.

Learn more about how manufacturers are leading and about the industry’s competitiveness agenda at nam.org/competing-to-win.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers 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 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% 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 NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org

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Pfizer’s Refugee Hiring Program Changes Lives

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As Mona Babury tells it, Pfizer’s refugee hiring program was born out of the basic human need to connect during a time of shared anguish.

Wanting to help: Last August, Babury, the pharmaceutical company’s director of global diversity, equity and inclusion, was horrified by news coverage of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and refugees fleeing.

  • Babury’s husband had fled Afghanistan for the United States with his family at the age of 5, some 40 years before, so she had a personal connection to the events unfolding.
  • She felt an urge to talk to someone who would understand, so she turned to Pfizer Executive Vice President and Chief People Experience Officer Payal Sahni, also a former Afghan refugee. In the course of their conversation, an idea popped into Babury’s head.

Lightbulb moment: “I said, ‘Why don’t we create a refugee hiring program? It will give [refugees] a glimmer of hope when they’re coming here with just the clothes on their backs,’” Babury recalled. “Within minutes, she responded, ‘Go for it.’”

Making it a reality: Pfizer, which had close to 1,000 job openings it was looking to fill, had never created a refugee hiring program before. “We didn’t have a playbook,” Babury said.

  • The team decided to research similar initiatives, and in doing so contacted The Tent Partnership for Refugees, a nonprofit organization established by Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya to help businesses hire and train refugees.
  • Thanks to Tent’s help, Pfizer’s Refugee Leadership Initiative was launched in mere days, with Babury named as its leader.
  • Its goal? Hire a minimum of 100 refugees by the end of 2022 and provide mentorship opportunities to an additional 150—with 50 of these opportunities earmarked for LGBTQ+ refugees.

Following through: In less than a year, the initiative is well on its way to reaching its goal—having hired 68 refugees so far. The enthusiasm from Pfizer’s workforce has been immediate and widespread.

  • After sending an email announcing the program globally, “we had 300 colleagues email back [within a few hours] saying they wanted to volunteer, to support us in any way they could,” said Babury.
  • At Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, facility, where the initiative has been most successful, “one [team] leader took this very personally,” hiring 18 Afghan refugees since the beginning of 2022, said Babury. In partnership with a local refugee agency, he has also made “a commitment to continue to further ramp up hiring efforts.” (Learn more here.)

Going above and beyond: Pfizer, which now works directly with the not-for-profit humanitarian organizations Tent for Refugees, Welcome.US, the International Rescue Committee and eight other resettlement agencies to source and hire refugees, does more than extend job offers.

  • Though the new employees do not require sponsorship to work in the United States, owing to their refugee status, they do need help restarting their lives. Pfizer provides up-front bonuses to help cover the costs of transportation to and from work and to help them obtain driver’s licenses.

A winning formula: Seeking out refugees as employees can be an enormously rewarding sourcing strategy for a manufacturing company, Babury said.

  • “The knowledge curve might be a little [steeper], but in the end, there’s so much data that shows refugee hiring pays off immensely,” she said. “They’re very hardworking, loyal and thankful for the opportunity to enter a new workforce.”

A proud moment: “I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in support of this important and impactful initiative,” said Pfizer Chief Global Supply Officer Mike McDermott. Pfizer Global Supply, Pfizer’s manufacturing and supply organization, has hired the most refugees at Pfizer to date.

  • “Our smart, talented and dedicated new colleagues are already making a difference. We welcome their fresh perspectives and have been motivated by their pride and passion,” he continued.
  • “I’d also like to recognize our PGS colleagues for welcoming these new teammates with open arms, supporting them both professionally and personally,” he added. “Everyone deserves a fresh start, and we consider it an honor and a privilege to play a role in the new chapters for these refugees and their families.”

Success stories: The backgrounds of many of the recent hires are as impressive as they are diverse.

  • The very first refugee hire, a man named Afzal Afzali, had been working for the U.S. embassy and the American University of Afghanistan when the Taliban seized control last summer. “He had to make a decision to escape within a few hours of the invasion,” according to Babury. “On his way out, he rescued four unaccompanied children protected by the U.S. government and reunited them with their mother in the United States.”
  • Afzali, who now lives with his family in Texas and works at Pfizer in procurement, told the company the new job has led him to finding his “life’s purpose in serving others … likewise, Pfizer is all about breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.”
  • Another new employee had previously worked with the Afghan president. She is now a senior associate on Babury’s team. She was recruited through the Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative Mentorship program.

The last word: Seeing the success of these new employees energizes those around them, said Babury.

  • “The leader at our Kalamazoo site will speak to you with such a light in his eyes about how … once these hires have a job, they don’t consider themselves refugees anymore. They’re people with jobs. They have a way to take care of their families. There is a sense of pride among all our colleagues because of this program.”
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Creators Wanted Gets Set for Fall Tour

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Creators Wanted is gearing up for another season of bolstering positive perceptions of manufacturing careers and inspiring new manufacturers. Its schedule for this fall is now set—and we’re sharing it with you.

The nationwide tour, a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner The Manufacturing Institute, with significant legacy funding from  Dow, Honda and Trane Technologies as well as contributions from more than 70 manufacturing companies, will stop in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 27–29.

  • The tour features an award-winning mobile immersive experience, to help students, emerging workers, parents and other career mentors learn and get excited about opportunities in modern manufacturing.
  • Tour stop attendees will also meet local manufacturers, interact with hands-on technology, attend presentations by stars in the industry and access resources for training and job opportunities.

Building on big impact: The MI and Deloitte have already reported that positive perception of manufacturing careers has soared from 27% when the tour started to 40% today, just shy of the goal of 50% by 2025.

  • The campaign has amassed—and maintained—an email network of more than 320,000 highly engaged students and career mentors.

Destination Tennessee: The Nashville stop will be the 10th since the tour began last year.

  • Hosted by Electrolux and Schneider Electric and co-presented by Robertson County Economic Development, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association and FactoryFix, the stop will take place at White House Heritage High School in the Nashville-adjacent town of White House, Tennessee.
  • More than 500 students, parents, teachers and community leaders are slated to attend.

It’s good to be back! From Oct. 4 to 7, as manufacturers nationwide celebrate MFG Day 2022, Nephron Pharmaceuticals will host the second Creators Wanted tour stop this fall, in West Columbia, South Carolina. FactoryFix and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce will also participate.

  • The tour visited West Columbia and Nephron last October. This year’s encore visit to the city will take place at the Nephron Nitrile Factory.
  • More than 20,000 students and career mentors are expected to sign up online to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.

College visit: Next, the tour will visit Decatur, Illinois, on Oct. 24–26, for a stop that will be hosted by Caterpillar and ADM and co-presented by Illinois Manufacturing and FactoryFix.

  • The events will be held at Shilling Center at Richland Community College. This third fall tour stop is expected to draw many visitors from the local community and add more than 20,000 students and career mentors to our network in Illinois.

Windy City premiere: The last stop on the Creators Wanted fall tour will be at the Rockwell Automation Fair in Chicago, on Nov. 16-17. The Creators Wanted immersive experience will be a main feature on the showroom floor at this gathering of thousands of industrial automation leaders and experts.

Learn more: Tour organizers say that there is still time to join the fall tour stop events. Interested in supporting the cause and the MI’s sustained workforce solutions? Contact Barret Kedzior at [email protected].

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Second Chance Hiring Works For Union Pacific

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Finding and keeping a job can be challenging for people with criminal records. These jobseekers face exclusionary business practices and logistical obstacles, which result in an unemployment rate for this population that is five times higher than the general US public. To minimize this inequality, The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—has joined with Union Pacific to expand candidate pools and bring more outstanding individuals into the manufacturing industry.

A second chance: Union Pacific began working on the second chance initiative last year, and the results have already proven fruitful.

  • In 2022, the company launched a pilot program with local community organizations in Houston to eliminate barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated and helped ensure the long-term success of these second chance candidates.
  • In its first three months, the program brought in nearly 100 new applications and created positive relationships and support systems.

The steps to success: The Union Pacific team discovered that three components were critical to helping candidates find jobs and succeed:

  • First, companies interested in hiring such candidates must update their own hiring practices and rethink potential barriers for otherwise qualified candidates—whether that means adjusting onerous required credentials or background checks.
  • Second, partnerships and strong relationships with local community partners can help ensure that these candidates have the support they need to be successful. Tools like the MI’s Community Partnership Scorecard helped Union Pacific find partners that fit well with their goals.
  • Third, establishing pilot initiatives in high-demand markets can help a company learn about best practices that can be replicated elsewhere. Plus, sharing experiences with other employers can help additional companies find success.

Expanding the program: Union Pacific’s current focus involves bringing the Second Chance initiative to new markets across the country to replicate the pilot program results.

  • “Everyone I speak with about our success in Houston wants to know how we can take this model and multiply,” said Union Pacific Talent Acquisition Manager Ken Kawamura.

Leaders in the field: With the success of this initiative, Union Pacific has become an industry leader in establishing inclusionary hiring practices and building community partnerships. The company hopes to help establish second chance programs throughout the country.

  • The Manufacturing Institute has been a critical partner in this work, providing information and resources necessary to its success.
  • “The MI is committed to supporting members in the pursuit of effective Second Chance initiatives,” said MI Vice President of Workforce Solutions Gardner Carrick. “Our goal is to leverage those learnings and strategies across the manufacturing industry to expand talent and opportunity in the sector.”

The last word: Union Pacific’s primary goal in pioneering this initiative is to build a more equitable workforce for all employees.

  • “In our eyes, once you are a part of Union Pacific, you are no different than any other employee, regardless of your background,” said Senior Director of Talent Acquisition Dan Culbertson.
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Manufacturing Offers Many Debt-Free Careers

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The manufacturing industry has had more than 2.6 million job openings nationally in 2022 already—a workforce shortage that shows little signs of slowing. Meanwhile, half of all those available jobs don’t require a four-year college degree or the debt that goes with it.

This week, President Biden announced new measures providing student debt relief to many eligible Americans. Yet the manufacturing industry helps young people avoid this problem in the first place, while also offering them salaries far above the national average.

Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee weighed in on the advantages available to young people looking to make a strong entry into the workforce, instead of suffering under debt that makes it more difficult to start a family, purchase a first home and achieve other major life milestones. Here’s what she had to say.

How it works: Manufacturers often offer short-term certifications or other training programs that allow people to jump into high-paying careers quickly and without debt, Lee explains.

  • “There are multiple pathways to career opportunities in manufacturing through skills training, ranging from short-term programs to more involved skills development and apprenticeship programs,” says Lee.
  • For example, the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program (founded by Toyota and operated by the MI) offers current and aspiring manufacturing workers both on-the-job training and classroom education. The program leads to an associate degree and an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.
  • Manufacturers work with FAME’s local chapters in part because they allow companies to use a global best system to train the skilled workforce they need to compete.

The numbers: The data show that manufacturing is a good choice for those inclined to avoid debt, Lee points out.

  • As noted above, there have been more than 2.6 million manufacturing job openings so far in 2022, but just 47% of those job openings (about 1.2 million) require a bachelor’s degree or greater.
  • Meanwhile, manufacturing workers in 2020 earned $92,832 on average (compared to an average of $77,181 for workers in all private nonfarm industries).

What can policymakers do? To ensure that manufacturing training programs continue to expand and succeed, policymakers should make certain changes, says Lee.

  • For example, Pell Grants should be usable for high-quality training programs as short as eight weeks—often all that is needed to train a technician.
  • Policymakers should also ensure that our education system focuses on skills attainment for career success, and that teachers and other influencers are aware of opportunities offered by pathways other than four-year degree programs.

#CreatorsWanted: The NAM and the MI have taken this message to communities across the country through the Creators Wanted campaign’s tour and mobile experience. Tens of thousands of students, parents, educators and local leaders have attended the tour stops, where they learned about the promise of manufacturing careers and were challenged to think like manufacturers in the interactive mobile experience.

  • As Lee told students at the Creators Wanted stop in Freeport, Texas, “Without a steady stream of talented, bright young people … we can’t keep up the good work of continuously making our products. This is not a get-one-job-and-stay-there-for-40-years [situation]. This is a choose-your-own-adventure [career path] with continuing skills and challenges and opportunities and learning along the way.”

The last word: “We understand how oppressive student debt can be, especially when starting out in life,” said Lee. “More people should be able to get a rewarding and well-paying job that doesn’t require massive debt that takes a lifetime to pay off. This is one of the reasons we work so hard to make sure young people know about the variety of options available to them in manufacturing careers; it’s not just for the industry’s benefit, but for theirs as well.”

If you’d like to hear more about careers in manufacturing, come to one of the many MFG Day events happening this October.

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GE Appliances Sees Success in Hiring Afghan Refugees

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It’s been almost a year, but the sights and sounds are never far from his thoughts: crowds of people surging toward departing planes, trampling those who stumble; gunshots ringing out; the explosion of a nearby bomb.

For Edris Akseer, now a bilingual recruiting coordinator at GE Appliances’ (GEA) Louisville headquarters, these memories are daily reminders of the horrors that he, his wife and his brothers endured in Afghanistan to get to the United States—and how different his situation is today.

  • “That day [I left] was the worst day of my life,” recalled Akseer, a former translator for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan who was able to secure passage out through his U.S. military connections. “[But] I’m happy here. I really enjoy helping others and I find my job really interesting. … I saved enough to buy a car and I’m working on getting my driver’s license.”

Helping refugees: Akseer is one of more than 100 non-U.S.-born employees brought on in recent months by GEA in Louisville. About 50 are refugees from Afghanistan who came here last fall when the U.S. military exited the country. The other half are Spanish-speaking and hail from multiple nations.

  • “In early 2022, we had a new production line–and we needed to hire over 1,300 people,” recalls GE Appliances Senior Manager Beth Mickle, who runs the production recruitment group at the company’s large campus in Kentucky.
  • “Catholic Charities and Kentucky Refugee Ministries said they [were helping] a group of people from Afghanistan and said, ‘We think you would be a great employer for them. Would you be interested in taking a shot at this?’”
  • GEA was interested—and opening the hiring process to refugees and other immigrants has been one of the best workforce decisions the company has made in recent memory, Mickle said.

Location, location: As a longtime U.S.-immigration entry point, Louisville has large populations of non-native-born people, said GE Appliances Workforce Development Recruiter Gabriela Salazar.

  • These include people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Peru, Honduras, Venezuela and Mexico, said Salazar, who recently conducted a survey of languages spoken among GE Appliances employees. The findings: production staff at three factories communicate in a total of more than 40 languages.
  • In a sense, working with charities to hire refugees is the next step in the company’s hiring practices. It “has helped us to tap into populations we might not have known how to tap into before,” Mickle said.

Learning as they go: GE Appliances now offers new-hire orientations in many languages, including Afghanistan’s official languages of Pashto and Dari, as well as Spanish and Swahili.

  • The company also has a buddy system which pairs new employees with workers who have been at the facility for a while.
  • “These are employees who volunteer to be points of contact, to help show people around,” Mickle said. “You know, ‘Where is the bathroom? ‘Where do I get my protective gear?’ We also translate all the new-hire documents [into native languages] because they won’t remember everything from their first day.”
  • Recently GE Appliances hired an American Sign Language translator to help its deaf employees. “Where it started was different languages—and now we’re seeing a lot of new horizons,” Salazar said.

Onward and upward: Akseer has seen a lot of new horizons himself in the past few months.

  • He was originally hired at GE Appliances as one of its much-needed production-line team members, but owing to his fluent English, compassion and constant willingness to help, Akseer was “always being pulled of the line to help translate” something for another new employee, according to Mickle.
  • So when a translator role opened up on Mickle’s team mere months after his hiring, Akseer was in. “He was already doing the role of what we needed him to do. He’s just a natural teacher,” Mickle said.
  • On top of the new country, the new company and the two new jobs in quick succession, Akseer underwent another major change: becoming a new father. His son was born shortly after the family came to the U.S.

Advice for other manufacturers: Hiring refugees and other immigrant workers has been a boon for GE Appliances, Mickle said, and other manufacturers should consider following suit if they can.

  • “They are the first to raise their hands for overtime,” she said. “They work very, very hard. In [manufacturing], our jobs are not always the easiest. But they do it and they love it.”

The last word: “Manufacturers that bring on refugees see fewer turnovers and increased efficiency,” MI Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Inclusion AJ Jorgenson said. “They’re also helping to improve lives and communities. More inclusive workplaces strengthen manufacturing.”

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How Manufacturers Can Attract and Retain LGBT+ Talent

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Job openings in manufacturing remain high, with many manufacturers citing the shortage of skilled labor as a major business challenge. Increasingly, companies are taking a closer look at their internal cultures and asking themselves a crucial question: How can we make ourselves more attractive to new recruits from diverse backgrounds?

Seeking all willing workers: Panelists at the recent D&I Roundtable: Recruiting and Retaining LGBT+ Employees, hosted by The Manufacturing Institute, discussed the growing awareness among manufacturers of ensuring that their companies are LGBT+-friendly workplaces.

  • “When you build a psychologically safe environment, all employees benefit from it because all employees will start to share their ideas without [fear of] retribution,” said Entegris Senior Manager of Talent Management & Development Phillip Spencer.
  • “More generations identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and want to work for companies that … support [them]. So, it really will benefit everyone and the bottom line of all of our companies” to be inclusive of the LGBT+ community.

Say no to “rainbow washing”: To recruit talent who identify as LGBT+, panelists agreed, manufacturers must genuinely create an accepting, open culture rather than just engage in “rainbow washing,”—i.e., adding a rainbow to company branding while offering few, if any, benefits to actual LGBT+ people.

  • Make sure your company is “really aligning your policies and your practices and those unspoken rules in your organization to make sure that you are doing the things that you say that you believe in when you’re talking about supporting the [LGBT+] community,” said Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Georgia Power Company and Southern Company Sloane Drake.
  • Entegris went back to basics with its inclusivity efforts, Spencer said, and it’s worked. “We started with a program talking about what does LGBTQ+ mean? And what does it mean in the workplace? Why are we talking about this in the workplace?”
  • The company also rejiggered its employee retirement fund structure when it realized the old setup did not account for same-sex couples, Spencer added.

Seek out ambassadors, but don’t push: LGBT+ employees can act as ambassadors to help a company build trust among other LGBT+ workers and prospective new talent, speakers said. Companies should seek out such potential representatives, but without assuming they will want to take on the responsibility.

  • “Nobody knows better what the experience is like than somebody who’s going through it,” said Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Senior Engineer Arwen Kathke, who is also the community outreach chair for the Goodyear pride network. “Including those employees in your decision-making processes and having those conversations with them to understand what their experience is will go a long way.”
  • “We’ve really spent a lot of time educating” our workforce, Drake said. “It’s not the responsibility of every LGBTQ+ employee in our organization to explain what [LGBT+] means. We’ve actually put some of our employees who were willing through storytelling training; they felt very comfortable being able to share and tell their stories in large meetings and on videos and podcasts, and that was very powerful. But [you don’t want] to make it feel like the one person in the room who [identifies as LGBT+] has to be the only one who can speak on that topic.”

Measuring success: How can manufacturers determine whether they’re reaching LGBT+ talent? There are various way, panelists said.

  • “There’s one great metric that’s going to help any organization understand 100% if it’s inclusive: Do you allow people to self-identify?” Drake said.
  • Another way is to review employee representation data, as well as the number of self-identifying people moving through leadership-development pipelines into leadership positions.

The last word: “If you create a supportive environment and have your internal development done,” said Kathke, “with employees who are starting to step up and really foster that environment, that’s going to work out a lot better in the long run.”

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Husco Provides Jobs to Afghan Refugees

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For Jason Schuetz, Husco’s vice president of global operations and advanced manufacturing, what started out as meeting a business need at his company has turned into something profoundly more fulfilling.

How it all started: The Waukesha, Wisconsin–based company, which specializes in hydraulic and electromechanical control systems, had open positions that needed to be filled—a challenge that many manufacturers face daily.

  • “We were struggling for a long time to fill the positions that we had open. And we knew that if we continued to think in conventional ways, we would get conventional output and that was not much,” said Schuetz.
  • “We were short a number of direct hire positions, similar to a lot of places in the area,” added Husco Director of Operations Mark Dreikosen. “We were looking for creative solutions to fill our staffing needs.”

An opportunity knocks: After months of minimal results in the hiring search, an opportunity was brought to Husco through Lutheran Social Services to help provide jobs for Afghan refugees who fled from the Taliban and relocated in Waukesha.

  • After many internal conversations and external meetings with Lutheran Social Services and Manpower International, a global workforce solutions company, Husco moved forward in March.
  • The result? Over the past several months, Husco has hired and welcomed 33 Afghan refugees.
  • “It was needs based, really, for Husco,” said Dreikosen. “Fortunately for us, it wasn’t the first time we’ve done something like this. We’ve helped support groups who have emigrated from Myanmar, formerly Burma, under similar context where there’s political unrest.”

Adapting to change: Schuetz said that 2016 experience helped Husco prepare for some of the challenges the company faced with regard to documentation, language and some cultural differences, but new challenges surfaced as well.

  • Schuetz said that being very fresh to the U.S. workforce, the refugees needed to be taught what the “professional expectations were in the U.S.”
  • Work instructions needed to be translated into Pashto and reformatted to accommodate reading from right to left rather than left to right.
  • “None of the individuals had licenses or had a means of getting to work,” said Schuetz. “So, we needed to quickly lean on and partner with Manpower—who has been vital in this—to help find and set up transportation.”
  • To accommodate religious needs, Husco set up multi-faith meditation spaces so the new employees can pray throughout the day. In addition, for a facility-wide event during Ramadan, the company catered appropriate food so individuals could still participate and be part of the team while practicing their religious obligations.

Breaking the language barrier: To help the refugees’ English-speaking skills, Husco ensures there are translators available on every shift.

  • Two employees, Hamza Jebran and Baitullah Jan—Afghan refugees themselves who studied English—serve as translators for their new colleagues. (Click here to watch an interview with Jebran.)
  • “Another of our employees, Habib, couldn’t speak a word of English when we first met him a few months ago, and now we can have a conversation with him,” said Dreikosen. “Sometimes we will have one of our employees come up during a shift meeting and teach the rest of the crew some Pashto as they’re trying to learn some English and share their culture at the same time. It’s really cool to see.”

Eager to learn: For Dreikosen, the refugees’ motivation and eagerness to learn transcend the language and other cultural differences.

  • “They’re as driven and motivated as any other employee who comes through Husco’s doors—and we caught on to that very quickly,” he said. “Their drive for success, given their situation, and how important it is to have a home and to feel welcomed, it’s inspiring.”

Strong foundation: Schuetz says that what has made Husco’s refugee program a success is the company’s strong foundation with its current employees.

  • “It’s been successful for us because we have always made it a point to treat our people fairly and with respect,” he said. “The refugees have been welcomed by their fellow employees because they know that we treat everyone this way, and we would help anyone. There are many challenges, but this team decided they were going to make this work, and every obstacle that they encountered, they knocked it down and moved the ball forward.”
  • The support from Husco has made the program a success: “It starts with our supervisors, our quality engineers, our technicians—they’re all in. They know there’s going to be bumps along the way, but they’ve bought in and know that this is the right thing to do,” said Dreikosen.
  • Dreikosen notes that Husco is now receiving more referrals and inquiries from job seekers of all sorts of backgrounds. They’ve heard about the good the company does and how welcoming it is, and that attention has made the company more attractive in the eyes of job seekers.

The last word: “When this opportunity was brought to us through Lutheran Social Services, we grabbed onto it tightly and realized that with the challenges that we were going to encounter day to day, the end game was so much greater,” said Schuetz. “It’s been rewarding in so many ways.”

What the NAM says: “With more than 900,000 open jobs in manufacturing, we need to attract and hire from the widest talent pool possible,” said Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee. “When manufacturers hire refugees, they see fewer turnovers and increased efficiencies, and at the same time, they’re helping improve the lives of refugees, their families and communities. Increasing diversity in the talent pool and developing more inclusive workplaces strengthens the competitive advantage of our industry and our workforce.”

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“It Is the Future”: Creators Wanted Arrives in Midland, Michigan

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The Creators Wanted Tour marked several milestones yesterday, as it kicked off its 10th stop on its cross-country trek and first-ever appearance at a major golf tournament.

In the swing of things: With generous support from Dow, the Creators Wanted Tour—a joint initiative of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute—arrived in Midland, Michigan, this week for the LPGA Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

  • The tour’s goal: to educate and excite students, parents, teachers and other mentors across the country about careers in modern manufacturing—in part with trips through an immersive series of “escape rooms” where participants get hands-on with advanced manufacturing, learn about the creative skills at work in the industry and have fun solving riddles and puzzles that unpack key information about manufacturing careers.
  • Dow recently announced that it is doubling its initial Creators Wanted campaign commitment to $2 million, which will help ensure continued tour stops and more outreach to the next generation of manufacturers.

Competitors needed: For the U.S. to remain competitive on the world stage, its manufacturing sector requires willing, dedicated talent, Dow Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Jim Fitterling told the audience at the tour stop’s kickoff event on Wednesday. Fitterling joined representatives from the NAM, the MI and the Michigan Manufacturers Association.

  • “The competitiveness of America’s workforce is critical,” Fitterling said. “If we want those supply chains back here, it isn’t a labor cost issue. It’s really [about] skills, and it’s also [about worker] interest.”
  • Michigan Manufacturers Association President and CEO John Walsh agreed, saying, “The number-one concern in every single company across the entire state in every single industry is personnel—getting people who are interested in manufacturing to come work and stay and move forward.”
  • The industry has averaged 800,000 job openings every month for more than a year, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons noted.
  • That could spell trouble for the economy as a whole, said Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee: “By the end of 2030, if we don’t fill these jobs, it could be a $1 trillion loss in GDP for the U.S.”

Not your grandparents’ manufacturing: The speakers pointed out that manufacturers must counteract the outdated and erroneous perceptions about their industry.

  • “An awful lot of students say that they won’t consider going into manufacturing because they aren’t encouraged by their parents to go into that field,” Fitterling said. “And sometimes they have perceptions about manufacturing that just aren’t current and aren’t modern. Creators Wanted is about … [giving] them a hands-on experience to show them what’s going on in advanced manufacturing today. This is a world that’s very digital. … There are all kinds of new technologies being used.”
  • One of the Creators Wanted Tour’s measurable goals by 2025 is “to change the perception for parents from 27% [favorability regarding manufacturing], where we began just a couple years ago, to 50%,” Lee said.

BAs not required: Manufacturing also offers career paths that don’t require a college degree, the speakers noted—another potential advantage that young people should know.

  • “There’s an alternative to college,” Fitterling said. “College is wonderful. And for those who wish to pursue that, they should, but there are students who might want to make something with their hands.”
  • Timmons recounted how his own father, who worked in the retail industry, was determined that Timmons attend college. “He said, ‘I want you to pursue a different type of career,’” Timmons said. “[But] I think we’ve gone full circle. And I think we realize now that today the manufacturing industry is the future. It is the future that everybody wants for their children.”

The last say: Careers that start on factory floors in manufacturing facilities can lead to leadership roles, Fitterling reminded the audience.

  • “Many generations of people in manufacturing [at Dow] have had great careers, and some have even gone on to lead companies out of that background,” he said. “We want to show students what’s possible and make sure that we use this [Creators Wanted] platform to get that message out and have the impact that we want to have throughout the United States.”

Related: Earlier in the day at a Success, Opportunity, Acceleration and Resilience (SOAR) event, during a fireside chat with Dow Senior Vice President of Operations, Manufacturing and Engineering John Sampson and in front of a packed crowd, Lee announced that Dow is providing a $500,000 grant over four years to support the MI’s Women MAKE America’s 35×30 campaign. The campaign aims to see women represent 35% of the manufacturing workforce by 2030.

Coming up next: The Creators Wanted Tour will come to several cities, including Columbia, South Carolina, Chicago and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in fall 2022.

Workforce

“You’re Your Own Limit”: Andrea Tucker Talks Success at Smithfield Foods

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If you want to be like Andrea Tucker, just ask her how she got to where she is today—she’ll happily help you plot a path to professional success like hers.

Rising to the top: Tucker is a complex plant manager at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the largest pork-processing plant in the world. But she didn’t begin there, and she wants other Smithfield employees to know it.

  • “I started as an hourly employee on third shift, and now I’m running the plant,” said Tucker, a 2019 honoree of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards (now the Women MAKE America Awards). “If you want to be me, let’s put a plan together and work toward it. At Smithfield, if you put in the work, it gets noticed.”

Manufacturing from the start: Tucker, a Georgia native, grew up on a small tobacco farm. In 2000, a lifetime affinity for numbers, process and mathematics led her to answer an ad seeking an accounting inventory clerk at Smithfield.

  • “For me, working in manufacturing kind of closed the gap of what happens after things are grown or made or after animals are raised,” Tucker said. “A passion was ignited in me: [for] the process flows, the ‘people’ side of things and how things work. I could use my love of math and make and see real change. From that day on, I felt like I could do something that mattered.”

“You’re your own limit”: Since joining Smithfield, Tucker has worked in multiple positions across the meat-packing company’s accounting and operations teams. Along the way, she received encouragement from management, and that backing has led her to become a trusted mentor to other employees.

  • “[When I was an hourly worker], I was told, ‘You have a good grasp of how things work. You know how to motivate and inspire people. Have you thought of operations?’” Tucker recalled of her first career change within Smithfield. “Smithfield is a big advocate of ‘you’re your own limit.’ You’re not tied to one plant or position or department.”
  • At the company’s urging, after 12 years in Tar Heel, Tucker took a position at Smithfield’s Wilson, North Carolina, facility as plant manager.

Women in manufacturing: The move “inspired me to see results, not only in processes but in other people, primarily women,” Tucker said.

  • “For many [of the women at the facility], I was not only Andrea the manager but Andrea the counselor, Andrea the person I can talk to about this problem I’m having with my 13-year-old,” she said. “There were a lot of single moms.”
  • The success stories among this contingent are many, Tucker said. Here’s one: Tucker noticed that an employee, a young mother, was struggling personally—and she learned that the woman was at risk of losing custody of her children. “I said, ‘Look, I know you have three kids, and this is not the life you wanted. I need you to be able to be that responsible parent. Smithfield has an employee assistance program; let’s get you enrolled. If I get your commitment that you’re ready for change, I will make sure you stay that course.’”
  • The employee did. “She put forth the effort. She and her kids, they’re thriving. She’s even enrolled in one of our emerging leaders programs.”

Opportunities abound: Smithfield continues to create pathways to professional advancement for its employees. These include:

  • A tuition reimbursement program;
  • A mentorship program; and
  • Women’s Connect, a mentorship program specifically for women.

Continuing to inspire: Tucker came back to Tar Heel earlier this year, in another step upward within the company. When she was first offered her current job, Tucker—despite having coached so many employees successfully—wasn’t sure she would be able to do it.

  • “Then I told myself, ‘Think about all the stories where people said they never thought they could do more,’” she said. “It reminded me, ‘You reached out and touched so many people at Wilson, why are you not giving yourself the same opportunity in Tar Heel, back where you started?’”

The last word: Tucker has advice for those daunted by moving up the ladder at work. “At the end of the day, it’s just people,” she said. “You take it one day at a time, and you just try to touch the lives of as many people as you can.”

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