Two of manufacturing’s top executives took centerstage yesterday as a part of the industry’s largest perception campaign to build the workforce of the future—by helping educators, parents and other career mentors coach students on their career journeys.
- Caterpillar Group President of Resource Industries (and NAM Executive Committee member) Denise Johnson and ADM Senior Vice President of Global Operations (and NAM board member) Veronica Braker joined NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO Mark Denzler and other notable state, community and education leaders to kick off the Decatur, Illinois, stop of the Creators Wanted Tour at Richland Community College.
- More than 120 students from American Dreamer STEM Academy attended the kickoff event. (More than 800 students are expected over the tour stop’s three days.) There they heard manufacturing leaders’ perspectives before exploring the various exhibits and activations showcasing the many opportunities in modern manufacturing.
Power of visibility: “Not everyone has a perspective or has heard from someone who looks like me or is from the same place,” said Braker, who is also on the global nutrition company’s Executive Council. “But together, we can change one event at a time.”
- “While pursuing my degree in chemical engineering, I interned with several manufacturing companies. … For me, manufacturing was always an attractive choice due to the fast pace, the energy, as well as the opportunity to solve problems while working as a part of a team, making a real impact on people’s lives,” emphasized Braker.
- On the rewards of her own manufacturing career, spanning more than a quarter of a century in operations leadership, Braker pointed out, “I’ve made lifelong friends. I’ve been exposed to innovative technologies that will change the way that people and generations live forever.”
Teamwork and growth drove Johnson’s path into manufacturing—and an ascent to the upper echelons of the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.
- “I was working in the design and engineering arena, and I was really wanting to move into manufacturing because I thought it would give me an opportunity to learn some new skills and be able to … work with teams and people to a larger degree.”
- In a panel conversation, Johnson, along with Tara Tolly, operations director of ADM’s Decatur manufacturing complex, highlighted more of the advantages of manufacturing careers, including great pay, diverse career paths and roles, upward mobility, variability of days, earn-and-learn options and chances to lead and develop transferable skills.
Answering the call: “It’s events like Creators Wanted where we need to be present and active for our students and encouraging them to start early and get engaged with opportunities that offer rich and fulfilling experiences for them,” said Braker.
- Braker and Johnson were instrumental in arranging the Creators Wanted Tour appearance in Decatur, in partnership with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, mobilizing not just financial backing but also team and community support to help excite the next generation of creators.
Why it matters: “Fifty percent of Macon County’s economy [where Decatur is located] comes from manufacturing … the single highest share of any county in Illinois,” said Denzler. “Programs like Creators Wanted are crucial for making significant progress in narrowing the workforce shortage … in manufacturing,” added Braker.
Beyond the campus: WAND-TV, the local NBC affiliate, covered the kickoff, and Timmons and Denzler joined Decatur’s top morning radio talk show, “Byers & Co.,” to amplify the Creators Wanted message. More than 500,000 students and career mentors have signed up to date through the Creators Wanted Tour to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.