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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.

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