Labor & Employment

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


FAME Program Gives Student Jumpstart in Auto Career

Austin Wilhite comes from a woodworking family. But even a few years ago, when he was a teen working in his uncle’s framing business, Austin Wilhite couldn’t have imagined that an apprenticeship program would lead him to a career in maintenance and manufacturing. Today, in his role as a Multicraft Maintenance Technician at Toyota Alabama, he’s excited about the opportunities he has unlocked.

“I always enjoyed building stuff and fixing things with my hands,” said Wilhite. “But I didn’t even know this career was a possibility.”

As a top student in his high school Agriculture Education class, he was encouraged by a teacher to attend a meeting about the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME). Originally developed and refined by Toyota, stewardship of the FAME program has recently transitioned to The Manufacturing Institute, the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers.

FAME trains students of all ages and backgrounds, from recent high school graduates to experienced manufacturing employees looking to advance their careers. FAME is an earn-and-learn apprenticeship where students spend time in the classroom and on the shop floor. After two years, students graduate with an Advanced Manufacturing Technician degree and no student debt. FAME chapters are currently operating in 13 states, and the Manufacturing Institute intends to further expand the program nationwide.

“It was a really good program,” said Wilhite. “You go to work and you see the things you’re learning about in school, but then you also get to see the more advanced work you’re headed into. You can see the change—at the beginning, you’ve never been in a plant or seen any of this stuff. And then all of a sudden, you’re able to understand how to troubleshoot and fix machines the proper way.”

Three years after graduating from FAME, Wilhite is a testament to what graduates of this program can accomplish. His new career has opened financial doors for him; the money he earned during the FAME apprenticeship helped him replace his car so that he could get to and from work reliably. The year he graduated, he was able to purchase a new house, and a year later, he bought a new truck.

“I’m the only person I know who, at 20 years old, was able to buy a new house,” said Wilhite. “The program is a commitment, but I’ve been able to reward myself for making that commitment. Without the program, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Wilhite is enthusiastic about his career prospects and proud of the new skills he has cultivated through the training he received in the FAME program.

“It’s a really good career,” said Wilhite. “Maintenance people are in really high demand. The program gives you the fundamentals of being able to work with your hands and fix things on your own. Plus, it’s a lot of problem-solving—and that’ll help you in your life.”

Learn more about the Manufacturing Institute’s FAME apprenticeship program.


Manufacturing Day Events Spur Workforce Interest

Led by The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, MFG Day helps showcase the reality of modern manufacturing careers to young people nationwide. By encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the country to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders, the annual celebration, which began on October 4, kicked off a month full of exciting and inspirational events designed to recruit and inspire the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Here’s a glimpse inside two events:

In Greensboro, Georgia, Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee joined local students for a shop floor tour at Novelis, a producer of flat-rolled aluminum products and the world’s largest recycler of aluminum. Lee met with students, business leaders and community members to discuss the high-tech, well-paying opportunities in modern manufacturing and the growing number of open jobs in the industry.

“Manufacturers are looking for the best and brightest talent to join them,” said Lee. “Our industry is growing, but with that growth comes the challenge of recruiting and retaining new workers. Through MFG Day events across the country, we have the chance to connect with the next generation of manufacturers and give them a close-up view of an industry and technology they might never have seen before.”

At the Samsung Electronics Home Appliance (SEHA) facility in Newberry, South Carolina, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons spoke with local  students about modern manufacturing careers.

Timmons joined South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and students for a tour of the facility, giving the young people a view of the work being done in modern manufacturing.  Launched just two years ago, the facility currently employs over 800 full-time workers. By 2020, the company expects the facility to generate nearly 1,000 jobs, including advanced manufacturing positions.

“These kids are the future of manufacturing and the future of this country,” said Timmons. “I’m thrilled to be able to spend time with them, and to show them what this industry has to offer. They’ll build the future—and I want them to know that we’re excited to build it with them.”

By participating in MFG Day, manufacturers and educators are telling students, teachers and parents across the entire country “Creators Wanted.” Because there are 4.6 million jobs to fill between now and 2028, the NAM and the MI have launched an unprecedented campaign to take that message from coast to coast in 2020. To get involved, visit


The Nation Unites for Manufacturing Day

On Oct. 4, approximately 3,000 manufacturers and educational institutions opened their doors to students, educators, parents and community leaders to celebrate Manufacturing Day.

Led by The Manufacturing Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers’ workforce and education partner, Manufacturing Day shows students what a career in modern manufacturing looks like.

By 2028, manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs. More than half of those jobs could remain vacant due to the industry’s skills gap and misconceptions about modern manufacturing. The MI and NAM aim to help solve the workforce crisis through efforts such as Manufacturing Day and the Creators Wanted campaign.

Manufacturing Day shows students why they should consider a career in modern manufacturing and what skills manufacturing companies are looking for in employees.

Political influencers from both sides of the aisle as well as federal entities shared Manufacturing Day messages, spreading the word about Manufacturing Day, its opportunities and the industry’s critical economic role.

To get involved in Manufacturing Day, visit


Today is #MFGDay19

Manufacturers Open Their Doors on Manufacturing Day

Today thousands of manufacturers and educational institutions across the country are opening their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders to celebrate Manufacturing Day. Led by The Manufacturing Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers’ workforce and education partner, Manufacturing Day shows students what a career in modern manufacturing looks like.

The Manufacturing Institute’s Executive Director Carolyn Lee will be in Greensboro, GA, at a Novelis facility.

NAM’s President and CEO Jay Timmons will be joining a Manufacturing Day event at a Samsung facility in Newberry, SC.

To keep up with the latest Manufacturing Day festivities, check out the MI and NAM on Twitter, plus the dedicated Manufacturing Day Twitter. Join the social media conversation by using the hashtag #MFGDay19 in related posts.


NAM in 5 Photos: Week of Sept. 9

This week, the National Association of Manufacturers helped move the manufacturing industry forward on three major fronts.




Manufacturing Institute to Expand FAME Apprenticeship Program

The National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute and Toyota Motor North America on Tuesday announced the operational and stewardship transition of Toyota’s Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program to the MI.

NAM CEO Jay Timmons and MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee were joined by Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump at Alabama Robotics Technology Park in Huntsville, AL, for the announcement.

FAME apprentices receive a two-year industrial degree, Advanced Manufacturing Technician, while working in their sponsor’s manufacturing facility. FAME trains students of all ages and backgrounds, from recent high school graduates to experienced manufacturing employees looking to advance their careers.

FAME chapters are currently operating in 13 states, and the MI will expand the program nationwide.

Education pathways to skilled careers and an expansion of apprenticeship programs are key goals of the NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted Fund, a campaign to inspire more Americans to pursue careers in modern manufacturing.

For more information, read the MI’s press release.

Click here to see photos from the event


Attract the Next Generation by Getting Involved in Manufacturing Day

Manufacturing Day, led by the Manufacturing Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers, is kicking off on Oct. 4.

Carolyn Lee, the Manufacturing Institute’s executive director, explains what makes this event unique, why it’s personally important to her and how you can get involved.

What is Manufacturing Day?

Manufacturing Day shows off what modern manufacturing looks like. Kicking off on the first Friday in October—and continuing throughout the month—this annual event helps manufacturing companies and educational institutions open their doors to students, parents, teachers, community leaders and more. Manufacturing Day shows students why they should consider a career in manufacturing and what skills manufacturing companies are looking for in job candidates.

How does Manufacturing Day make a difference for students?

On Manufacturing Day last year, hard material manufacturer CERATIZIT hosted an event in Michigan. At the beginning of the day, they asked the group who was interested in a career in manufacturing. Only three or four students raised their hands. The students then spent the day taking the tour of the facility, trying out CERATIZIT’s products and using CAD software to make their own keychains. At the end of the day, they were asked the same question about who would be interested in a career in manufacturing. This time, there were only three or four students who didn’t raise their hands!

You might think you know what manufacturing looks like today, but seeing is believing — and seeing modern manufacturing firsthand can be life-changing for students. I hope that Manufacturing Day makes a difference in the lives of the students who attend, getting them to seriously consider a career in manufacturing.

Why is Manufacturing Day important to you?

I grew up in a manufacturing family. My dad, grandfather and even my grandmother for a short time worked in manufacturing. When I was a kid, manufacturing was a lot different than it is today — and I still thought it was cool! Now, it’s even more amazing. Manufacturing careers are increasingly high-tech, and technology is increasingly an integral part of the industry. Manufacturing employees are excited about technology, and they’re excited to learn and grow in their careers.

It’s always amazing to see what the manufacturing workforce makes and what goes into making the things that improve our lives every day and how they do it. Manufacturing Day is the way for everyone to see it for themselves.

How can I get involved in Manufacturing Day?

If you’re a manufacturer, plan an event for your community on Oct. 4 (or another day in October), and make sure to register it on Manufacturing Day’s website. If you’re a student, parent or teacher, find events being held in your area using the map on our website.


Heroes MAKE America Fuels Veteran’s Oil and Gas Career

As a child, Josh Matherne dreamed of joining the military. He realized that dream as a team supervisor in the U.S. Army infantry at Fort Hood, where he mentored younger soldiers and helped ensure that they were doing their jobs safely and successfully.

“My grandfather was in the Marines, and he really pointed me in the right direction,” said Matherne. “I always thought it was the right thing to do. As soon as I could serve, I wanted to serve.”

All the while, Matherne was interested in the oil and gas manufacturing industry. When he began to think about a civilian career, the Heroes MAKE America program was a natural fit. The program aims to build a mutually beneficial pipeline between the military and manufacturing, offering transitioning service members in-demand manufacturing skills and training, and educating manufacturers on how to recruit and retain members of the military and their families. As a student in the Heroes program, Matherne expanded his knowledge in manufacturing and tailored his resume to reflect his work ethic, determination and passion for the industry. Through the program’s regular networking opportunities, company tours and training support, the initiative helped him launch his new career.

“The Heroes program gave me an idea of what I was getting myself into,” said Matherne. “It eased my transition by getting me into the civilian mindset and taught me how to interact with civilian workers.”

Like many Heroes MAKE America participants, Matherne initially wondered if his skills would transfer into his field of interest. But shortly after he began his current role as a chemical operator at Occidental Chemical in La Porte, Texas, he found that his military training made him ideal for a position that required discipline and attention to detail. He has already been fast-tracked toward a promotion, and he has found a familiar rhythm that reminds him of his experience as an infantry team leader.

“It’s kind of like the military,” said Matherne. “The family-style team; being a part of something worth being a part of.”

Matherne continues to share open job opportunities within his company and other oil and gas companies in order to help other veterans like him find their next career in a well-paying, growing sector. He’s also mentoring new veteran hires, giving them a sense of what to expect during their transition and teaching them how they can use their past training to succeed in manufacturing.

“It’s a great atmosphere, has great people, and has a similar structure to the military,” said Matherne. “The manufacturing industry loves the drive we have and the discipline we have. They love seeing it, and they love hiring it.”

Learn more about the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program.

Policy and Legal

What a Yield Curve Inversion Means for the Economy

Last Wednesday, as yields on shorter-term bonds surpassed those of longer-term bonds, the U.S. economy briefly experienced an “inverted yield curve”. Historically, such an inversion has been a reliable predictor of recessions to come.

Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, explains the significance of the yield curve and whether manufacturers should worry that a recession is on the way.

What is a yield curve?

In its simplest terms, if I lend money to you over several years, I would expect to get receive a higher interest rate to compensate me for giving up access to my money for a longer time frame. In a healthy economy, interest rates should be upward-sloping as the length of maturities increases. 

What does it mean if a yield curve inverts?

An inverted yield curve means that the interest rate for short-term loans is higher than for longer maturities. This would imply that financial markets might be more pessimistic in its outlook.

An inverted yield curve can foreshadow a recession. The spread between 10-year and 2-year Treasury bonds is often seen as an important barometer. Since World War II, when this yield curve has inverted, the U.S. economy has entered a recession within the following 12 to 18 months.

The yield curve between 10-year and 2-year Treasury yields inverted last week. It’s positive now, but still close to inversion. The last time this spread inverted was June 2007, predating the start of the Great Recession by five months. 

Should manufacturers be worried? Does that mean that a recession is just around the corner?

There are warning signs that we are closely following. Broadly, the global economy is clearly slowing, as noted in our most recent monthly report, and financial markets have been highly volatile in recent weeks, exacerbated by trade uncertainties. As a result, businesses in the U.S. have become more hesitant in their spending and there are worries that the economic slowdown abroad could find its way to the U.S. Within the manufacturing industry, production is contracting both in the U.S. and abroad, and hiring has slowed in the sector.

However, a yield curve inversion does not necessarily mean that a recession is imminent. Yields may be influenced by other factors, and there are positive economic signs too. Consumer spending remains strong, and the labor market remains near 50-year lows. The U.S. economy should also grow 2.3 percent in 2019.

What can policymakers do to avoid an economic downturn?

Central banks around the world are easing monetary policies to stimulate growth, or to provide an “insurance policy” for the economy so economic recovery can be sustained. These trends have pushed 10-year Treasury yields to their lowest levels since October 2016.

Manufacturers remain optimistic about the future, but in order to keep growing, we need to address the workforce crisis and resolve trade uncertainties. Namely, passing the USMCA, reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank and securing a bilateral trade agreement with China are necessary to ensure manufacturers in the U.S. can continue to grow.


New Report Dives Into Retaining The Aging Manufacturing Workforce

Right now, one-quarter of the manufacturing workforce is over 55 years old. Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry is struggling to attract enough younger workers with the right skills and qualifications. Facing a workforce crisis—with open jobs in manufacturing recently reaching an all-time high—manufacturers are finding that retaining older workers is not only a necessity but an asset.

The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research, in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, recently conducted a survey to discover how companies are addressing this shifting demographic challenges.

This workforce issue affects nearly all manufacturers, the study found. Ninety-seven percent of respondents reported that they fear losing institutional knowledge when these workers depart.

“Manufacturing is facing a demographic sea change—leaders in the industry know it, and many are proactively adapting to it,” said Chad Moutray, the Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research director and the National Association of Manufacturers’ chief economist. “Given the current workforce crisis, other manufacturers should look to the successful initiatives being implemented in the industry and collectively expand on them to develop the workforce of tomorrow. The simple fact is that companies are very concerned about losing their top talent to retirement and are finding creative ways to keep them longer and to train younger workers.”

The study also examined the innovative approaches manufacturers can use to extend older workers’ productivity and help transfer institutional knowledge to the next generation. For example, manufacturers are implementing upskilling and training programs to address the challenges this demographic may experience. Sixty-nine percent of companies said they had on-the-job training programs, and 54 percent said they have internal technical training programs.

“Manufacturers are utilizing the expertise of their older workers, implementing policies and procedures to keep them longer and creating opportunities to pass on their knowledge and talents to the next generation,” said Carolyn Lee, the Manufacturing Institute’s executive director. “The reason for this is clear: unlocking the knowledge of today’s older manufacturing workers is critical to shaping tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

Read the full report.

View More