Labor & Employment

To keep manufacturing an engine of the economy, we need labor policies that support flexibility and innovation.

Workforce

“Manufacturing Is an Obvious Choice” for a Veteran

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Dan Mitchell didn’t expect to join the Army, which means he couldn’t have expected to translate his military experience into a career in manufacturing. But thanks to The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program, that’s where he is now.

The son of Fish and Wildlife Service officials, Mitchell set his heart on the Army while a Boy Scout in high school. As he describes it, he entered West Point as “a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 17-year-old”—and faced a wake-up call. It wasn’t at all like the movies!

Instead, Mitchell learned that Army life involved doing a great number of small, important things effectively. He spent time in maintenance at industrial facilities, managing safety and operations, and tracking armored units and heavy vehicles. Whether he was keeping his room clean or doing inspections or ensuring the safety of weaponry, he learned that routines were vital. It was a lesson that would serve him well in his next career.

Heroes MAKE America: After eight years in the Army, Mitchell heard about the Heroes MAKE America program from some of the 145 soldiers under his command, and he quickly signed up.

  • While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented his Heroes class from touring facilities—“I was excited for the Frito-Lay tour,” he says, “and that’ll stick in my craw for my entire life”—he calls his experience in the program “phenomenal.”
  • From general career support, such as help with building a LinkedIn profile and drafting a resume, to the “invaluable” Certified Production Technician course, Mitchell saw Heroes MAKE America as a vital program that offered him critical tools.
  • “It was eye-opening to see the level of skilled labor and craftmanship that’s involved in modern American manufacturing,” Mitchell says. “It spoke to me. I had no idea of the width and breadth of opportunities, or how interesting and dynamic and challenging the jobs are.”

A new job: As he begins his new role as a production supervisor at Daikin Applied Americas in Minnesota, Mitchell sees manufacturing as a natural fit. “What I did in the Army doesn’t directly translate to what I’m doing now, but it’s pretty darn close,” he says. “I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’d be way behind if I hadn’t gotten the Heroes training.”

Words of advice: “For anyone who has been a leader in the Army—as long as you’re willing to learn and put in the work—manufacturing is an obvious choice.”

Workforce

Three Diversity Chiefs Share Insights

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Manufacturers are looking to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive—but what steps should they take? Following the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests, many companies have supported the NAM’s own Pledge for Action, an agenda for advancing justice, equality and opportunity for Black people and all people of color.

As part of its Diversity and Inclusion pillar, The Manufacturing Institute has begun hosting roundtables, drawing on the expertise of D&I chiefs from across a wide range of companies. Below is a brief recap of a recent event.

The panel: Speakers included AAON Community Relations Director Stephanie Cameron, Dow Senior HR Director of Talent Acquisition/Pipelines and Corporate Director of Inclusion Alveda Williams and Trane Technologies Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Talent Management Michelle Murphy. Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee moderated the conversation.

The panelists focused on helping those who are just beginning this conversation as well as those who are working to accelerate their current efforts. A few of the suggestions included the following:

  • Don’t rely on programs. Williams noted that programs can be cancelled when budgets are cut or an unforeseen situation arises. Instead, manufacturers should find ways to make D&I a part of their identity, ensuring that their work in the area won’t be scaled back or discarded.
  • Emphasize inclusion. Inclusion drives innovation, productivity and team engagement, Cameron pointed out. While diversity can be considered a collection of unique differences, Williams added, you can’t capitalize on those differences unless you value inclusion. Achieving diversity is about the workforce, but inclusion is about the workplace, and creating a culture and environment that emphasizes a sense of belonging.
  • Embrace change. Murphy emphasized that companies must be agile and adaptable not only to keep up with workplace changes, but also to promote positivity and lead with their values.

The conversation also included some concrete practices and initiatives, including:

  • Companywide virtual conversations about issues like race, gender and LGBT inclusion to encourage learning and discussion;
  • Internal leadership development programs to ensure that diverse leaders have opportunities to move up within the company, which might include English and Spanish courses on-site; and
  • Employee resource groups and inclusion resource groups that bring forward ideas from diverse employees and allies to move the company forward.

The business case: Strengthening D&I isn’t just the right thing to do, participants said; it’s also the smart thing to do. Inclusion drives engagement, and engaged employees are more productive—making inclusive workplaces better for a business’s bottom line.

You can access a recording of the full conversation here.

Workforce

From Army Mechanic to Food Manufacturer

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Brittanee Sayer is the sixth of seven siblings who have served in branches of the military. Given her family’s example, she always knew she would serve her country. But what would come after that? The answer: manufacturing, thanks to training at The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program.

Her military experience proved useful to the career change. Sayer spent most of her seven years in the service working as a generator mechanic at Fort Riley. She was in charge of maintaining tactical, utility and precise power generation sets, internal combustion engines and associated equipment—a job that included running power for Fort Riley’s hospital. When she decided to leave the military, she wanted to keep employing these skills.

Heroes MAKE America: Prior to her Army service, Sayer had worked at Wolverine, which manufactures military boots—“I went from making the boots, to wearing the boots,” she says. Given her experience in the Army, she thought a return to the industry made sense, and that the training offered by the Heroes MAKE America program would help her advance further.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March required a few changes to ensure safety, but Sayer says the program adapted effectively. Adjustments included:

  • Online learning, with Skype meetings once per week to ensure students could still engage with the material together;
  • Smaller classroom meetings, with in-person tests offered to five people at a time; and
  • Digital networking opportunities to help students and graduates connect with companies seeking employees and learn from manufacturing leaders.

The new career: Recently, Sayer accepted an offer of employment at a large U.S.-based food company, and expects to start by the end of the month. She says the Heroes program helped get her resume in front of every possible employer. Since she graduated from the program in May, she’s received a range of job offers from across the United States.

The last word: “I tell all my friends still in the Army: if you can do the Heroes MAKE America program, do it,” says Sayer. “It’s a great opportunity, and it really does help.”

Workforce

CEO Gina Radke Talks Female Leadership—and Restroom Lines

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Who says longer lines for the women’s restroom are a good thing? Manufacturing CEO Gina Radke does. And here’s why—longer lines for the bathroom at manufacturing conferences would mean that more women worked in the industry, where they now only make up a third of the labor force.

Radke used to take photos of the bathroom doors at these conferences and post them to social media, highlighting the absence of other women in line. And if she has anything to say about it, those lines will be growing a lot longer.

The CEO of Galley Support Innovations, Radke likes to say that she got into manufacturing by mistake, and then learned it from the ground up.

  • When she and her husband bought the company—which specializes in interior hardware for aircraft—she thought she’d focus on the marketing side. But as she puts it, she fell in love with the process of turning raw materials into a finished product.
  • They moved the company from California to Arkansas, and soon, she had learned to run all the machines on the floor and immersed herself in every aspect of the business.

Along the way, she couldn’t help but notice that few other women had the same trajectory. Radke was often mistaken for an assistant and rarely encountered other women in leadership positions. She was determined to change that.

  • “If you can see it, you can be it”: Radke has worked to make herself more visible in the manufacturing world, as a role model for other women. The company even designed a calendar in which their female machinists posed as Rosie the Riveter.
  • STEP honoree: In 2019, she was a recipient of the Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Awards—a national honor for accomplished women in the industry. Radke says the conference for honorees was the first time she had been around other women leaders in the industry. It made her feel a sense of relief and encouragement, and she resolved to step up her mentorship so more women would feel the same.
  • “I could write a book”: Inspired by her experience at the STEP conference, Radke wrote a book called “More Than.” In it, she offers guidance to both women and men, so they can achieve a more equitable workforce together.

And there’s more: Under Radke’s leadership, the company has been a pioneer in hiring formerly incarcerated individuals and people who have been involved in the criminal justice system. It also created programs to train kids who age out of foster care, helping them transition into well-paying jobs.

The last word: “To women who haven’t considered manufacturing: consider it,” says Radke. “It’s a great field to be in. We need everything, so you get to be creative and process driven. And you have an opportunity to break stereotypes and shatter the status quo.”

Press Releases

NAM Launches ‘Wear a Face Covering’ Ad Campaign

Let’s Get America Back to Work and Our Economy Roaring Again

Washington, D.C. – Today, the National Association of Manufacturers launched “Wear a Face Covering,” an ad campaign designed to keep our economy growing and protect American families. It illustrates that face coverings are essential to safeguarding jobs and reopening businesses. The campaign will run in key manufacturing states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and others. Upon release of the ad, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons made this statement:

“There is no way to sugarcoat this—we need to get America back to work now and get our economy roaring again. The virus is spreading in a significant way, and if it continues, that will lead to economic devastation the likes of which we have never seen before. If everyone wears a mask outside the home, maintains social distancing with anyone other than the family unit and practices appropriate hygiene procedures, we will get the tens of millions of unemployed Americans back to work. If large groups of people refuse to wear masks, they are condemning their fellow citizens to long-term unemployment and our economy to disaster.

“There are no excuses left. While we have learned more and more about this deadly virus, the guidance from our nation’s health care experts has evolved. Today, we know that the best and most certain way to stop the spread is for everyone to wear a facial covering. It isn’t fun. It isn’t pleasant. But through shared responsibility, we can get this pandemic under control and save small businesses and jobs. That’s why the NAM is taking this message across the country. Our economy depends on it, jobs depend on it and—most importantly—lives depend on it.

“The Golden Rule tells us that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Covering our faces in public is a simple but powerful expression of the Golden Rule, and so much more than a mere gesture.”

-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 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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 Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org

Press Releases

Manufacturers Praise SCOTUS Decision on LGBT Worker Rights

Timmons: “Ultimately, we know that diversity and inclusion makes our workplaces stronger, just as it makes our country stronger.”

Washington, D.C. – Following the momentous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons made this statement:

“This ruling, one of the most consequential since Obergefell, not only sends a powerful message of inclusion and equality to millions of Americans but also affirms that LGBT Americans cannot be fired just for being their authentic selves at work.

“Too many LGBT Americans go to work every day hiding who they are or whom they love because they believe that simply living authentically would mean losing their jobs and livelihoods. The Supreme Court has begun to lift that heavy emotional burden and made history by affirming that LGBT workers are entitled to federal protections, too.

“For our part, manufacturers are committed to building diverse and inclusive workplaces, a mission that has taken on renewed importance in recent weeks. We will continue to be advocates for equal opportunity and champions for justice—because ultimately, we know that diversity and inclusion makes our workplaces stronger, just as it makes our country stronger.”

-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 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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 Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org

Press Releases

NAM Executive Committee Passes Resolution to Support All People Who Face Injustice

Manufacturing Leaders Take Action to Advance Justice, Equality and Opportunity for Underrepresented Communities and Across Sector

Washington, D.C. – In the wake of the May 25 murder of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Executive Committee unanimously voted to pass the Pledge for Action, an 11-point commitment plan for manufacturers to advance justice, equality and opportunity for black people and all people of color.

“My heart is heavy with recent events,” said Michael W. Lamach, chairman and CEO of Trane Technologies and chair of the NAM Board of Directors. “While the killing of George Floyd sparked this outcry, this is a crisis that has gone unaddressed for far too long. We introduced this Pledge for Action to demonstrate our companies’, our association’s and our industry’s commitment to being part of the solution and to stand against injustice and create a better future for the black community and all communities of color.”

Around the country and throughout the world, George Floyd’s death has spurred protest and action, highlighting the inescapable inequities that are too often downplayed and brushed aside by those with the power to make a difference.

Merck Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier addressed the June 11 Executive Committee meeting. He noted that, “Opportunity and equality have the power to change the course of not only an individual’s life, but of history. Through education, I was given the chance to overcome the opportunity gap that exists in this country, and I believe that this pledge, if taken to heart by the NAM members, can do the same for thousands of Americans and in particular African Americans.”

The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the NAM, will continue to support manufacturers’ efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace and to deliver on these new commitments. The MI, via its Diversity and Inclusion Pillar, will be deploying tools, resources and knowledge to help manufacturers put actions to their words and build more inclusive workplaces.

“This is a difficult time for our country, and manufacturers all have a role to be part of the solution—in our homes, in our companies and in our local communities,” said Chuck Wetherington, BTE Technologies president, NAM Executive Committee member and Small and Medium Manufacturers Group chair. “Our businesses are the hearts and souls of the communities where we live, and we have a responsibility to act. With this pledge, we are making a commitment to do what is right and urgently needed.”

As leaders who represent manufacturers in the United States, the NAM recognizes the integral role our industry has historically played in lifting up people and communities, and the opportunity and obligation we have now to stand with and support all people who face injustice.

“Manufacturers will do our part. All of us must recognize the systemic inequality and racism that black people in America face—and the role we must play in ending it. This industry is committed to delivering the change our nation needs,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

Highlights from the Pledge for Action include the following:

  • We will strengthen our workplaces as spaces where black people and all people of color will be heard, respected and celebrated.
  • We will work to improve and increase representation of black people and all people of color at all levels of our companies and organizations—entry level, midlevel and senior level.
  • We will expand education, training and scholarship opportunities in the manufacturing industry for black people and all people of color.
  • We will remove barriers and open doors to modern manufacturing careers for those inside prisons and for those reentering society.
  • We will encourage increased minority participation in democracy through voting, advocacy and other opportunities for influence.
  • We will diversify the supply chain by providing equal opportunity for black-owned and minority-owned enterprises to do business with us.

To read the full Pledge for Action, visit nam.org/pledgeforaction.

-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 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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 Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org

Press Releases

NAM Survey: Manufacturers Face Major Headwinds, but Continue Operating in Support of COVID-19 Response

Despite Drop in Optimism and Worsening Business Conditions, Majority of Industry Keeping Doors Open

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers today released the results of the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey for the second quarter of 2020 showing that despite a historic drop in optimism, to nearly 34%, and challenging business conditions, the vast majority of manufacturers (98.7%) have continued or only temporarily halted operations. The survey also shows that manufacturers are innovating to find solutions to keep businesses running and to protect workers and communities, with almost 22% retooling to produce personal protective equipment, 67% reengineering processes to reflect COVID-19 safety protocols and 12% completely reevaluating the mission of the firm.

Manufacturers have led the country through the COVID-19 response, and America is counting on our industry to lead our recovery and renewal, said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. While these numbers show that we’ve faced difficult circumstances and that there is a challenging road ahead, manufacturers have proven that with our grit, determination and patriotic spirit, we can overcome any challenge facing the nation. And in our ‘American Renewal Action Plan,’ the NAM has shown the way forward.

As policymakers and regulators debate solutions to help the economy recover from this pandemic, the NAM urges them to focus on the renewal agenda laid out in the “American Renewal Action Plan.” We have been encouraged by actions taken thus far, but there is still greater need for targeted liability reform, tax provisions to ensure investment in manufacturing and measures to reaffirm the U.S. supply chain to protect those businesses that continue to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 response to ensure as swift a recovery as possible.

The Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey has surveyed the association’s membership of 14,000 large and small manufacturers on a quarterly basis since 1997 to gain insight into their economic outlook, hiring and investment decisions and business concerns. The NAM releases the results to the public each quarter. Further information on the survey is available here.

-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 11.5 million men and women, contributes $2.38 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic multiplier 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.

Press Releases

Manufacturers Release “American Renewal Action Plan”

Timmons: The Nation Is Counting on Manufacturers

Washington, D.C. – To strengthen the nation’s response to COVID-19 and ensure manufacturers are poised to lead the recovery and renewal of the American economy, the National Association of Manufacturers released the “American Renewal Action Plan.”

“Our industry has been on the front lines throughout this crisis, providing the equipment and products to keep our country safe, healthy and fed. The nation is counting on us to continue to play a leading role in this effort, and lawmakers must equip us with the tools we need,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. Timmons, a member of the White House’s COVID-19 Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups, added, “The NAM’s ‘American Renewal Action Plan’ is the path forward.”

The recommendations are outlined in three phases—response, recovery and renewal. Some of the key provisions include the following:

  • Response:
    • Congressional and administrative actions to allow manufacturers to further ramp up production and enhance distribution of personal protective equipment to support not only our hospitals, but all sectors of the economy.
  • Recovery:
    • Congressional and administrative actions to ensure that employees are able to go into work confident that proper health precautions are being implemented.
    • Strong and clear legal reforms that protect the essential manufacturers that must remain open to provide vital goods and those that retool their factories to make urgently needed equipment and supplies.
  • Renewal:
    • Significant investment in workforce training programs to aid dislocated workers.
    • Historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure to boost the economy.
    • Key reforms to boost economic and national security by growing the U.S. manufacturing industry.
    • Congressional and administrative actions to expand U.S. exports and strengthen the manufacturing supply chain.
    • The Treasury Department, Small Business Administration and Federal Reserve should speed the delivery of aid to small businesses by addressing key issues related to their new lending facilities.

The NAM released its “COVID-19 Policy Action Plan Recommendations” on March 9 to guide the government’s initial response to the pandemic. The association released an updated and expanded action plan on March 18. Congress and the administration have already adopted many of the proposals.

-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 $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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 Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Business Operations

Small Manufacturer Leverages Tax Reform to Weather Tough Times

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Rex Heat Treat, a commercial heat treatment company serving industries from aerospace and transportation to construction and defense, is tapping its tax reform benefits to support its workers, strengthen its business and invest in its future. A family-owned company since 1938 with facilities in Lansdale and Bedford, Pennsylvania, and Anniston, Alabama, Rex Heat Treat has been able to keep employees on board and purchase critical new equipment, even in challenging times.

“Without the benefit of tax reform, we might not be sitting in as good of a situation as we are,” said Rex Heat Treat General Manager Johnathan Rex. “We’d be a lot leaner in our bank account, possibly needing to draw on a line of credit to make payroll otherwise. As we weather the effects of COVID-19, these benefits will help us. Our business has more time to maintain our critical infrastructure workforce should this current situation continue on.”

In particular, the manufacturer has been able to use “full expensing,” which allows businesses to take a tax deduction for the cost of new equipment in the year it is bought, rather than taking smaller tax deductions over several years. This reduces the cost of buying capital equipment and accelerates depreciation deductions for manufacturers and business owners, which decreases the company’s tax bill in the year of purchase and frees up cash for that purchase. For a capital-intensive industry like manufacturing, where the latest technology is key to production, this kind of support can be vital, especially among smaller manufacturers with tighter margins.

“Full expensing allows us not just to accelerate the last investment we made but to accelerate the next one—because it’s cash in hand,” said Rex. “We want to do this as quickly as possible, but you can also run your business into the ground if you invest too quickly. Allowing a company to aggressively invest in itself and maintain some cash is a big help.”

As manufacturers around the globe deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19, tax reform has helped give small businesses the resources to protect their employees and their customers.

“Tax policies that allow manufacturers to keep and invest more of their earnings are critically important in uncertain times,” said National Association of Manufacturers Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. “As we respond to today’s challenges and prepare for the future, building upon pro-growth policies like these can help support workers, businesses and communities nationwide.”

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