Benita Gibson didn’t set out to join the rail industry, but after 15 years at Union Pacific Railroad and 30 years in management across three different industries, she serves as Union Pacific’s general superintendent for commuter operations in Chicago—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
A big job: Gibson oversees Union Pacific’s North, Northwest and West Metra Lines. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the route carried 194 trains and 100,000 passengers every weekday. While the pandemic has disrupted some passenger rail travel, Gibson continued her focus on making the system work flawlessly, supervising everyone from engineers and conductors, to locomotive and car shops, to ticket agents and Maintenance of Way employees to ensure safe and efficient operations.
A pioneering leader: Gibson is the first Black female operating executive in Union Pacific’s history, but she hopes that the doors she opened will encourage more women and, specifically, more women of color to join her.
- “When I started, you really had to stand your ground and let people know you were part of the team,” said Gibson. “I really just want to be treated equally. My main focus was, I wanted to be able to do what was expected of anyone to do, not just a male or female.”
Opportunity for all: Gibson encourages other women to look for roles in the transportation sector, emphasizing the breadth of opportunities that are available for people interested in being a part of a large and growing industry.
- “We have everything within this company,” said Gibson. “We have marketing and sales, real estate and law, accounting and logistics. People don’t realize all the opportunities there are within a railroad. Every job and career type that’s out there is right here at Union Pacific.”
Now hiring: Union Pacific is also interested in promoting opportunities for women who might not have thought about a career in rail previously—and they’ve got big plans to do it. Through a $3 million, three-year partnership with The Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s workforce development and education partner—Union Pacific intends to double the number of women in its workforce within the next 10 years. The initiative that works in tandem with Creators Wanted is called Careers on Track and is designed to inspire more women and youth to pursue modern industry careers through workforce development and career solutions. It includes:
- A digital STEM curriculum;
- A virtual STEM experience allowing participants to explore interactive 3D models of facilities and locomotives;
- A STEM micro-grant program for young people; and
- A digital campaign that demystifies career opportunities for underserved women.
The last word: “Being a young female getting into this career is exciting,” said Gibson. “It offers great pay, great camaraderie and the chance to learn a lot. You have an opportunity to see a lot of different places within the 23 states where we operate. Our motto is ‘Building America,’ and that’s exactly what you get to do.”
What was the collective mood at the premier event of Creators Wanted Tour Live’s fifth stop? Upbeat and excited. In Dallas/Fort Worth Tuesday, before racing to the future in the Creators Wanted mobile experience, students from Tarrant County College and local high schools heard from leaders in education and manufacturing about the industry’s many exciting career opportunities.
Upward mobility: “You’ll never be bored working in manufacturing, I can assure you that,” said NAM Senior Vice President of Communications and Brand Strategy Erin Streeter. “A career in manufacturing will grow with you over time, so you may start as a welder and end up as a CEO.”
- Indeed, there is no shortage of manufacturing jobs; only a shortage of people to fill them, Tarrant County College Chancellor Eugene Giovannini said at the kickoff. “Why is this happening now?” he asked, referring to the Creators Wanted tour, a joint project of the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute. “Millions of jobs [are] going unfilled because of not having people skilled to do [manufacturing] jobs.”
- In fact, the U.S. will need 4 million manufacturing positions over the next decade, Giovannini said, referencing a figure from a joint MI–Deloitte study. “It’s folks like Creators Wanted … that make you prepared” for those jobs.
Opportunity abounds: “The students here in front of me … are graduating here in North Texas at an ideal time,” said Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner, who presides over a school district of more than 70,000 students. He also said that the demand for technical and certification programs at Fort Worth schools has increased significantly each year in recent years. Scribner indicated that more than 1,000 students would join Creators Wanted in Fort Worth.
- Aicha Davis of the Texas State Board of Education echoed this sentiment. “One of our most important duties is to make sure that you have what you need to be successful when you graduate,” she told the audience at the kickoff. “And we listen to different industries … one of the number-one demands is for manufacturing … because we have so many different items that we ship in and out of Texas.”
A re-envisioned future: Manufacturing gives those who work in the sector the chance to discover themselves and their callings, the speakers at the premier event told the many students, teachers and parents in attendance.
- Jessie Kessler, site leader of the Northlake Distribution Center Site for Stanley Black & Decker, a Creators Wanted Innovator sponsor, told the audience she started at SB&D 22 years ago “answering phones … as a temp” and never dreamed it would lead to a career with the company. “The [number] of opportunities that are in the manufacturing sector opened up the world to me. … There’s definitely opportunity to grow and to learn and to move up. You’re not stuck at one job forever when you step into a manufacturing facility.”
- Cornerstone Building Brands Supply Chain Senior Vice President Brigette Gage, who spoke at the event, told the crowd that her career goals have come a long way since she got her start in the workforce. “I started as an engineer; I wanted to design roller coasters,” Gage said with a laugh. “But I found out that … actually making something was certainly a lot more fun” than designing it, “and it’s where I found my niche in my career. … At Cornerstone, we absolutely recognize the importance of making sure we’re continually evolving.” Cornerstone Building Brands is a Leader sponsor of the tour.
Responding to the call: Before tours of the Creators Wanted mobile experience and its popular escape-room challenges, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee wrapped up the kickoff event by reiterating the need for skilled people in manufacturing.
- There are 900,000 open jobs in manufacturing today, Lee said. By 2030, that number could grow to 2.1 million, and those unfilled jobs “will harm our communities. … You can be part of that next wave of creators. Regardless of your interest, there’s a place for you.”
For quick video highlights of the premier event, click here.
Creators Wanted is having a moment. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the fourth stop of the mobile experience’s five-city expedition around the U.S., the Creators Wanted Tour Live continued to generate big excitement about manufacturing and the career opportunities the industry offers.
“I’m only 22 and I bought a house, a boat and a dirt bike,” said Ketchie Inc. Lathe Department Lead Machinist Zach Whitley, during a nationally aired live Creators Wanted Spotlight conversation with students from East Mecklenburg and Hopewell high schools. “Manufacturing is what has enabled me to have this lifestyle.”
Makers needed—and rewarded: The spotlight event was part of the four-day stay of the mobile experience at Central Piedmont Community College presented by Trane Technologies. The tour, a project of the NAM and its workforce development partner, The Manufacturing Institute, seeks to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturers—and recruit at least 600,000 new workers to address the manufacturing talent shortage, which is estimated to leave more than 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030, according to Deloitte and the MI.
Its message seems to be getting out.
- “I had never heard of manufacturing before” today, Anson High School sophomore Janita Willoughby told Charlotte Channel 9 WSOC-TV reporter Susanna Black. But as it turns out, in a manufacturing career “you’re making a lot of money and you’re doing stuff you like, so that’s a good thing,” she said.
Goings-on galore: In addition to the spotlight event, the student- and job seeker-focused happenings in Charlotte were many and varied. They included:
- A kick-off event featuring talks from speakers including North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Creators Wanted Legacy Sponsor Trane Technologies’ Mike Lamach, NAM Board Chair and Trane’s executive chair, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston; Community College Chief Academic Officer Heather Hill; MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee; and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons
- A manufacturing fair with local manufacturers and education partners, highlighting local career opportunities and pathway programs, certifications and degrees for those interested in manufacturing
- Tours by local high school students of the escape room-like Creators Wanted experience
- Q&A sessions in which students had the opportunity to discuss the manufacturing industry and its jobs with real manufacturers
“Something that excites you”: “There’s a common misconception that manufacturing is boring,” Lamach told an audience of students at the Charlotte kick-off event. “What I love about this Creators Wanted tour is how it pulls you [toward] the many different possibilities in manufacturing. There are many different kinds of opportunities to learn and grow, and all kinds of ways to make a difference. I hope you’ll find something that excites you.”
- The Charlotte stop hosted more than 450 students from West Mecklenburg High School, Anson High School, South & West Stanley High Schools, Floyd Johnson Technology Center, East Mecklenburg High School, Hopewell High School, Myers Park High School, Rowan-Salisbury High School, Harding University High School, the Epiphany School of Charlotte and CPCC, generating approximately 68,000 email signups.
Highlights: Video and photos show some of the fun and learning that took place last week.
A Trane Technologies team member talks to student attendees at a Creators Wanted event.
Local high school students and teachers proudly display their escape room times.
The race to the gateway to the future was on in Honda’s “Sum of All Parts” challenge, where these students made the correct choice as to what product this team of Honda associates is creating.
Students had fun working with DJ Enferno to make their own Creators Wanted music anthems, putting more of the creativity central to manufacturing to work.
The tour in Charlotte brought manufacturing’s promise to students with differing abilities. Teachers reacted positively to the impact of the experience.
Lamach, whose leadership on Creators Wanted helped get the campaign off the ground, took the stage to emphasize what the tour is all about: students.
The response: Creators Wanted earned notice from some well-known names, both in North Carolina and elsewhere.
Manufacturers are in Charlotte this week at @cpcc to fill jobs with the next generation of creators.
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) November 17, 2021
Group hopes to recruit high school students to join manufacturing jobs https://t.co/SlVccG81ta
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) November 17, 2021
Central Piedmont is proud to host the Creators Wanted tour this week!
Creators Wanted is a mobile experience designed to bring the story of modern manufacturing to communities across the country and promote employment within the industry.
Learn more: https://t.co/9j6ZTEac4A
— Central Piedmont Community College (@cpcc) November 16, 2021
Media mentions: In addition to WSOC-TV, broadcast and online news outlets including the Charlotte Business Journal, WCCB Charlotte and Business North Carolina also covered the Creators Wanted Charlotte stop.
The final say: “You can’t create the future unless you’re engaging the future,” said Chrys Kefalas, chief strategist of the tour and vice president of brand strategy at the NAM. “Students came to us not thinking about manufacturing as a career and left aspiring to careers in the industry. Resumes were handed to manufacturers. We’re creating lasting memories that won’t just result in new workers but [will] also change lives.”
Part hands-on science and technology experience, part TED Talk, part career coaching—that might be the best way to describe the Pella, Iowa, stop of Creators Wanted Tour Live, which wrapped last week.
Pella was the third stop on the mobile experience’s expedition around the country, following Columbus, Ohio, and West Columbia, South Carolina. The objective of Creators Wanted, a brainchild of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, is to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturers. It aims to help fill the more than 4 million open positions expected in the industry between now and 2030, a number forecast by Deloitte and the MI.
A rewarding field: Manufacturing “is a field that has always rewarded technical skills, hard work and an innovative imagination that refuses to settle for business as usual,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who spoke at the tour stop’s kickoff event, told the audience of local high school students, teachers and media members. “Too many young people simply don’t know about” the many opportunities in manufacturing, she pointed out.
Much to see and do: The events of the three-day stop included:
- Speeches from Gov. Reynolds, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee, Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa (the host of the Pella tour stop), Pella Corporation President and CEO Tim Yaggi and Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston;
- Mobile experience tours, where attendees got to solve escape room–like challenges and manufacturing-related puzzles;
- A panel with representatives from Vermeer Corporation and Pella Corporation who highlighted the exciting, well-paying jobs available in manufacturing;
- A softball toss/window-strength test in which participants threw balls at a window made by Pella Corporation; and
- Manufacturing demonstrations and other hands-on opportunities for visiting local middle- and high-school students.
‘Making our world a better place’: “You’re going to see for yourself how manufacturers like Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation and thousands of others across the country are making our world a better place,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told the crowd at the premier Pella event. “We’re here at Pella today because…we want you to be a part of the manufacturing workforce.”
Impact: The tour stop reached more than 500 students and generated approximately 25,000 email sign-ups.
Some of the fun: Photos and videos from the three days show some of the educational and entertaining activities on offer:
A Pella Middle School student tours the mobile experience at Vermeer Corporation.
A Pella student puts on a welding mask at the Vermeer Corporation welding station.
Pella-area high-school students pose in front of the mobile experience with Timmons, Gov. Reynolds, Lee and Ralston.
A Pella student tries out the Pella softball toss.
The response: Excited messages from tour stop sponsor Vermeer Corporation, journalists including Fox News broadcaster Connell McShane and business associations such as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry filled the Twitterverse last week in response to the mobile experience and its message.
Creators Wanted Public Open House today, Nov. 9, from 5-7 p.m. in the Global Pavilion Arena. Go through the escape room-style experience using skills in manufacturing. Then learn about jobs in manufacturing with Vermeer and @Pella_News. #EquippedToDoMore #CreatorsWanted pic.twitter.com/b9CD58BjMz
— Vermeer Corporation (@vermeercorp) November 9, 2021
The worker shortage isn’t getting any better so manufacturing companies are trying to do something about it.
— Connell McShane (@connellmcshane) November 9, 2021
— Iowa ABI (@IowaABI) November 9, 2021
— The NAM (@ShopFloorNAM) November 9, 2021
— Pella (@Pella_News) November 9, 2021
The last word: Andringa underscored the readiness of his company to take on new creators. He said, “Vermeer has been proud to help generate and develop the next generation of the workforce we need for manufacturing.”
The city of Pella, Iowa, hosted a panel of distinguished Hawkeye State leaders on Tuesday who encouraged students to join the manufacturing industry and welcomed the Creators Wanted Tour Live on its third tour stop.
Having arrived in Iowa on Monday, the mobile experience, which is part of the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s comprehensive “Creators Wanted” workforce campaign, has been a main attraction this week. More than 400 students from multiple nearby schools, as well as local business and political leaders and the media, have attended in just its first two days of activation. The campaign’s aim: to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and help fill the 900,000-plus open manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
The largest sector in Iowa: Creators Wanted “is truly a unique opportunity for our young people to be introduced to the many exciting careers in manufacturing,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told the audience at the Pella kickoff event Tuesday morning. “As governor, it’s encouraging for me to see so many students turn out for manufacturing, which is the largest sector in our economy.”
- Iowa boasts the third-highest concentration of manufacturing workers in the U.S., Gov. Reynolds said.
- Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston also underscored the strong state of manufacturing in Iowa in his address, telling students that nearly 18% of state GDP comes from manufacturing. It is one of the largest percentages nationwide, Ralston said. “The output of all that manufacturing activity is almost $34 billion,” he told attendees.
‘Passionate about manufacturing’: Pella Corporation President and CEO Tim Yaggi told the audience, which included students from Pella High School, Oskaloosa High School and Prairie City Monroe Community High School, about his company’s original mission nearly a century ago. Yaggi hammered home that the firm still has many excellent jobs available for those able and willing.
- “When Pete Kuyper founded Pella … he wasn’t passionate about windows or screens; he was passionate about manufacturing,” Yaggi said. “He knew that for this company, for this city to thrive, we needed a manufacturing base, and the reason he created the company was to create great jobs for the people of Iowa. Family. And that mission is just as true today as it was 96 years ago.”
- Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa, host of the Pella tour stop, talked about the many families employed at his company. Children and grandchildren work alongside their parents and grandparents, he said. “Vermeer has been proud to help generate and develop the next generation of the workforce we need for manufacturing.”
Doing good—and being needed: In his remarks at the premier event, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons mixed things up by asking the audience about their plans for the future. “Raise your hand if you want to change the world for the better, if you want to do good,” he said. Numerous arms shot up. Continued Timmons, “With manufacturing, you can do good.”
Closing argument: “We need more people like you; we need you,” Timmons said. And what’s more, manufacturing gives people “opportunities to have a heck of a lot of fun.… I guarantee you are going to love it.”
Momentum: Joining the tour in Pella and broadcasting live from Vermeer Corporation, Fox Business Network and Fox News ran a combined five stories about the Creators Wanted campaign yesterday, including this hit with Neil Cavuto and Connell McShane. A CNN Newsource piece continues to appear in local television markets throughout the country. And Iowa news media is providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Creators Wanted Pella tour stop.
Want to join the list of Creators Wanted sponsors? Email the Creators Wanted campaign.
Some of the most impressive women in the industry gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards—the first in-person ceremony since the pandemic began. The awards, and the leadership training program that precedes them, are designed to recognize and advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production. This year, honorees and “emerging leaders” from both 2020 and 2021 had the opportunity to attend the events, as last year’s events were online-only.
The leadership program: For the leadership training program, the MI brought in distinguished experts to help honorees advance their careers in the industry.
- The program, consisting of general sessions and preselected breakouts, covered a range of must-have professional skills, such as negotiating. It also featured industry executives and STEP Ahead alumnae who provided firsthand accounts of their experiences in manufacturing, along with advice for navigating a career in the industry.
The awards ceremony: The awards gala took place on Thursday night. Nearly 600 guests gathered in person, adhering to strict health and safety protocols, including a vaccination requirement, while hundreds tuned in online. The program featured:
- MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee;
- 2021 STEP Ahead Chair and Johnson & Johnson Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer Kathy Wengel;
- NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons; and
- Keynote speaker and Gravitas Founder and CEO Lisa Sun.
The awards sponsors included BASF, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Trane Technologies, BorgWarner and Rockwell Automation. This year’s STEP Ahead Vice Chair and 3M Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Denise Rutherford and Ketchie Inc. President and Owner Courtney Silver served as the masters of ceremonies.
Leading in a crisis: The speakers acknowledged the toll that the pandemic has taken on manufacturers and praised the honorees for contributing to the industry’s robust response.
- As Lee put it, “How many times did we get knocked down? How many times did we think, ‘Maybe we got knocked out’? But we’re still here. And we’re here and we’re standing because of you, because of manufacturing. The women in this room and industry and our world are going to come out of this stronger than ever.”
- Wengel echoed this sentiment, saying, “When I look around this room, it hits me: the incredible impact on human life that manufacturers from so many industries … have made in the past 22 months.”
Creators needed: Timmons, who has been traveling with Lee to promote the NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted Tour Live mobile experience, talked about the importance of attracting more women to the industry.
- “With your example and your mentorship, you’re giving more and more young people a reason to say, ‘I want to be just like her,’” he said. “And we urgently need more people like you.”
Setting an example: Keynote speaker Sun had the crowd laughing and cheering as she talked about the critical importance of self-confidence for women.
- The child of Vietnamese immigrants, Sun worked for 11 years at consulting firm McKinsey & Company. During a year-long sabbatical from the firm, she decided to launch her own fashion company to help other professional women look and feel confident.
- “My 22-year-old self was told that I didn’t have any gravitas; it spurred me to action,” said Sun, referencing the origin of her company’s name. “McKinsey just came out with their ‘Women in the Workplace’ study. Women were the reason that we got through this pandemic … [but] traditional HR structures will not value the things that we did: empathy, relationship building … We have to give ourselves credit first.”
The reactions: The social media response was excited and optimistic—and often just plain proud!
So excited to see @TheMfgInstitute @ShopFloorNAM honor Chief Scientific Officer Ashley Daugherty for her company leadership. She is blazing trails for women in manufacturing – and lifting women up as she climbs! pic.twitter.com/sTGrNZjbwU
— Nephron Pharmaceuticals (@NephronPharm) November 4, 2021
Erika Peterman, BASF’s Senior Vice President – Chemical Intermediates North America spoke to the 2020 & 2021 STEP Ahead award recipients and shared her insights as a female leader in manufacturing on how she has navigated through major inflection points in her career. #MFGWomen pic.twitter.com/Uo5VYv3gRC
— BASF North America (@BASFCorporation) November 4, 2021
— ABB Motors and Drives US (@ABBMotorsMechUS) November 4, 2021
— GrapplingBilly (@GrapplingBilly) November 4, 2021
The last word: As Lee told the honorees, “The ripple effect of your example goes a long way—strengthening our industry and changing our world.”
For Ashley Daugherty, working in manufacturing meant being able to examine complex processes from beginning to end. The appeal of this sort of analysis drove her from undergraduate internships in chemical manufacturing to a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. Today, that same sense of excitement continues to fuel her work as the chief scientific officer for Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
A pioneer in the industry: When she began her career in manufacturing, Daugherty quickly encountered a very male-dominated industry, but she refused to let that stand in her way. In fact, she saw an opportunity to help make the manufacturing sector more diverse and inclusive.
- “In all my internships, all my leads and bosses were male,” said Daugherty. “When I went to grad school, there was not one female tenured professor. I wanted to make an impact.”
A critical role: Through her work and education, Daugherty has been at the leading edge of some of the most important medical efforts of the modern era, from anticancer therapeutics to antiviral treatments that combat HIV. In her role at Nephron, she helps produce inhalation medications for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has helped hospitals facing shortages of important medications get the supplies they need.
- “Seeing the direct impact of medication that could be used for the most advanced diseases and being a part of that—the impact on patients—is important to me,” said Daugherty.
Testing, testing: In the midst of the global pandemic, Daugherty also worked with Nephron to create COVID-19 testing facilities for all employees. Within weeks, the project was up and running, and today, the clinical lab offers COVID-19 testing with same-day results to all Nephron employees, as well as universities and major businesses across the state.
An example to others: The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—recently recognized Daugherty as one of the 2021 STEP Ahead Award honorees. The award is presented to women leaders in science, technology, engineering and production careers who exemplify leadership within their companies and in manufacturing in general.
Words of wisdom: Daugherty encourages other women to make a career in manufacturing, even if they might not have considered it previously. She also advises them to “be persistent.” “Don’t ever give up on your end goal and keep pushing until you get there.”
What a blast! The West Columbia, South Carolina, tour stop of the Creators Wanted Live mobile experience drew hundreds of participants, getting job seekers and students excited about careers in manufacturing.
What went on: With inspirational talks and visits from public figures and well-known business leaders, the second stop on the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s cross-country trip drew plenty of attention. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster stopped by to try out the project’s immersive mobile experience, and others, including Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation President, CEO and Owner Lou Kennedy and Trane Technologies Plant Manager Gregg Krick, gave students heartfelt, inspirational talks about the rewards of manufacturing careers.
The reaction: The NAM and MI team in charge of the tour captured some of the excited reaction to these events on video. Here are just a few clips to give you a taste.
Donte Jackson, a senior at Airport High School in West Columbia, South Carolina, was pleasantly surprised by the teamwork it took to complete the mobile experience challenges:
Dr. Cindye Richburg Cotton, Executive Director of the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center in West Columbia, South Carolina, talks about her students’ positive reactions to the mobile experience:
“The Creators Wanted mobile experience sealed the deal” for Airport High School 11th grader Kenneth Pearson:
Chatting with Trane Technologies representatives, Airport High School students Donte Jackson, Lamont Taylor and Kenneth Pearson discover some of the exciting (and well-paying!) positions on offer in manufacturing:
“I think this is an awesome opportunity for them to see what’s out there.” Hear more from Mike Harlen, a teacher at Lexington 2 Innovation Center in Cayce, South Carolina:
What’s communication got to do with it? As it turns out, a lot! Airport High School senior Lamont Taylor talks about what he learned from the mobile experience:
There’s more: Creators Wanted is less than a week away from its third tour stop in Pella, Iowa. RSVP today to reserve your spot!
Introductions to manufacturers, an immersive-experience walkthrough and panel discussions with local leaders—the West Columbia, South Carolina, tour stop of the Creators Wanted Live mobile experience had all that and more.
Last week’s series of events marked the second stop on the tour’s six-city cross-country jaunt designed by the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, to inspire and educate future manufacturers. The events brought out public figures, including South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Harry Lightsey, as well as business leaders, including Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation President, CEO and Owner Lou Kennedy, Trane Technologies Plant Manager Gregg Krick and South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan.
Among the activities in the three-day West Columbia stop were:
- Creators’ “Office Hours,” where students had a chance to meet team members at Trane Technologies, Honda and Nephron Pharmaceuticals and learn more about working at these companies and in modern manufacturing;
- Creators Conversation, in person and broadcast live on Facebook, where students and teachers from West Columbia and around the country gained insights into how to pursue a manufacturing career; and
- Tours of the mobile experience for students from local schools, including Longleaf Middle School, Lexington 2 Innovation Center, Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center, Lake Marion High School and Technology Center and New Hope Leadership Academy. Afterward, representatives from Nephron, Trane Technologies and Honda talked to students about the opportunities available in manufacturing, and PTC demonstrated the possibility of augmented reality.
See the stop: Photos and videos from the West Columbia events show how much energy was in the air. Below, attendees at the premier event pose in front of the mobile experience:
NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons wraps up the kickoff event with some inspiring personal stories.
High-school students show their excitement after touring the mobile experience.
Families get to the final room of the mobile experience together and are stopped in their tracks by the PTC augmented reality technology, which helps students and parents understand the career paths in manufacturing.
Students hold up cards that show how long it took them to complete the challenges in the Creators Wanted Tour Live mobile experience. They’re pretty speedy—a great sign for their future careers!
And last, students talk about the impact the tour is making, showing that perceptions are changing thanks to Creators Wanted.
The reach: These photos only capture a fraction of the excitement and activity surrounding the tour. All in all, approximately 500 students participated in the West Columbia Creators Wanted Tour Live events last week. More than 16,000 students, parents and others interested in manufacturing careers in South Carolina signed up to follow the Creators Wanted campaign online, and the broadcasted Creators Conversation reached more than 1,000 people on the opening day of the tour stop.
Telling tweets: Political and business leaders also championed the tour on social media.
Gov. McMaster applauded Nephron Pharmaceuticals and Creators Wanted for showing jobseekers the many opportunities available in manufacturing:
The Creators Wanted campaign and @NephronPharm are showing our young people and job seekers how to take the first steps into the manufacturing industry.
Thank you, Lou Kennedy, for showcasing all of the opportunities that are available in this growing industry. pic.twitter.com/GPItTXS5dq
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) October 20, 2021
Lt. Gov. Evette posted about her visit to Creators Wanted and shared some photos …
What a fantastic day joining with @NephronPharm, @ShopFloorNAM, and @TheMfgInstitute for the ceremonial kickoff and celebration of the Creators Wanted Mobile Experience National Tour. pic.twitter.com/desbUrFljQ
— Pamela Evette (@PamelaEvette) October 21, 2021
… while Nephron Pharmaceuticals posted some photos of Secretary Lightsey in the mobile experience and thanked him for visiting.
Thank you @SCcommerce Secretary Harry Lightsey for visiting Nephron!@Lulunephron was pumped to give the secretary a preview of @ShopFloorNAM @TheMfgInstitute Creators Wanted workforce development exhibit! pic.twitter.com/GcvPfeLp7X
— Nephron Pharmaceuticals (@NephronPharm) October 19, 2021
And NAM Vice President of Brand Strategy—and Chief Strategist for the tour—Chrys Kefalas caught some serious excitement about manufacturing:
Best part of last week: hearing from the students how excited they were by the #CreatorsWanted experience & about their newfound interest in manufacturing. It kept happening. Makes you feel like this campaign is about their future, instead of just an industry’s. #WeWontStop pic.twitter.com/F6ObigYhyH
— Chrys Kefalas (@CKefalas) October 25, 2021
“What we witnessed on the ground was exactly what we were hoping to achieve,” said Kefalas. “Student after student kept saying they learned a lot and—and this is big—want to go work for Nephron Pharmaceuticals and Honda and other modern manufacturers like Trane Technologies. A high school athlete told me ‘this is the place’ when talking about Nephron. Teachers said to us ‘lights went on.’”
Media responds: News outlets far and wide reported on the West Columbia tour stop and the Creators Wanted project in general.
- CNN interviewed Timmons.
- Locally, coverage included stories by WACH FOX 57, WSPA 7 News, WBTW News 13, Columbia Regional Business Report, Carolina News (the campus news network for the University of South Carolina), The Lexington Ledger and the Lexington County Chronicle, as well as repeated media hits across all Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates.
- Op-eds by Trane Technologies Executive Chair and NAM Board Chair Mike Lamach and Kennedy in the Greenville News and by Morgan in The Post and Courier rounded out the media blitz.
The final say: The Creators Wanted Tour Live is as timely as it is educational, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee said last week. With more than 900,000 jobs open in manufacturing, the tour “is part of a larger campaign that couldn’t come at a more important time for manufacturing and this country.”
This week, the Creators Wanted Tour Live continued to disseminate its timely message: Manufacturing jobs are rewarding, well-paying and fun—and perhaps now more than ever, they need qualified people to fill them.
The tour, a project of the NAM and its workforce-development partner, The Manufacturing Institute, is on its second stop in West Columbia, South Carolina, through today. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster stopped by on Wednesday, and yesterday, some more big names turned out to greet students, parents and teachers and talk about the nation’s need for more creators.
Big challenge: “The challenge is truly significant,” MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee said at the event. “We have over 900,000 jobs open in manufacturing today.”
- Creators Wanted, the program of which the mobile experience is a part, aims to help close the skills gap through the recruitment of 600,000 workers by 2025, Lee said.
- Creators Wanted also seeks to increase by 25% the number of students enrolled in technical and vocational education and upskilling programs.
Big reward: NAM board member and Nephron Pharmaceuticals Owner and CEO Lou Kennedy, host of the West Columbia tour stop, actively recruited the job seekers in the audience.
- “What I hope you’ll learn from your experience as you go through this super-cool truck behind me is that manufacturing is a new way to make money, and great money,” Kennedy said, gesturing to the Creators Wanted mobile experience. “The average wage at Nephron is over $73,000 a year, so these are great-paying jobs.… We hope that you’ll be inspired today to join us or join my friends at other companies across South Carolina.”
“The first option”: South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette echoed Kennedy’s hopes for the event’s audience—and said that perceptions about manufacturing and technical career paths are changing for the better.
- “Going to technical school is not a second-tier option anymore,” Lt. Gov. Evette said. “It is the first option for most of the students coming out of high school.… Thank you for being here today. Your eye is on the prize, and the prize is manufacturing here in South Carolina.”
A place for everyone: South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan and Trane Technologies plant manager Gregg Krick underscored the health of the manufacturing sector in South Carolina.
- “The state of manufacturing in South Carolina is strong,” Morgan said.
- Said Krick, who “start[ed] on the plant floor” at heating, cooling and ventilation-system maker Trane Technologies, “If you’re wondering if manufacturing is the place for you, take it from me—there is a place for you in manufacturing.”
The last word: Rounding out the program was NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, who reiterated the need for applicants in manufacturing—and shared an anecdote from his family history.
- During the Great Depression, “my grandfather left his family farm and … stood in line every day for six months” to get a manufacturing job. He finally landed one due, Timmons said, to sheer perseverance.
- “Today you don’t have to do that,” Timmons said. “You can look around and see what jobs are most exciting to you, and you can fill out an application and you can get hired.… According to the MI and Deloitte, we will have 4 million manufacturing jobs to fill between now and 2030.… These aren’t just numbers—these are opportunities. Manufacturing jobs are opportunities to earn not just a great living with excellent benefits; they’re also an opportunity to have fun.”
In the news: The second stop of the tour continues to receive widespread attention, with Fox 57 capturing student and teacher reactions to the campaign.