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Ducommun’s #MFGDay21 Was a Roaring Success

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It would have been an impressive feat no matter what, but Ducommun’s achievement of a robust and highly attended MFG Day 2021 was made all the more remarkable by the fact the company had been an NAM member for just nine months.

MFG Day, an annual program of the NAM’s nonprofit workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, highlights the opportunities and potential of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders.

“As a leader in innovative manufacturing, Ducommun supports National Manufacturing Day, as well as other education and community-based STEM programs and initiatives, that nurture and develop the next generation of creators, builders, technicians and innovators,” said Chonta Salts, Ducommun corporate HR business partner. “Our goal for MFG Day was to engage with students, parents and educators to broaden their understanding of modern manufacturing and to highlight the range of full-time opportunities, internships and part-time summer jobs available to them.”

Their MFG Day: Ducommun, a 172-year-old Santa Ana, California-based provider of technology-driven structural and electronic solutions for the aerospace, defense and industrial markets, coordinated employee and representative visits with 11 high schools and colleges nationwide. Each school is local to one of Ducommun’s U.S. manufacturing performance centers.

  • Events were held in person at Ducommun, in classrooms at local schools and online through livestream. Ducommun leadership teams, engineers, technicians and production team members engaged with students about what a career in modern manufacturing is really like—and how much room it offers for professional growth and advancement.
  • “Employees shared their own success stories: starting out in entry-level production positions, completing training programs to advance to technical, engineering or other professional positions and what they do in their current role,” said Ducommun Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Rose Rogers. “I think that’s a key component of rolling it out. You have to engage with students at their level. By having our employees connect with the students, they were able to ask questions directly to our employees.”

What they did: Ducommun’s MFG Day success was bolstered by the fact that the company has long been involved in sponsoring local-school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities. So come October, it already had many connections at nearby schools.

  • Ducommun team members attended the virtual training sessions offered on the MFG Day section of creatorswanted.org,Salts said.
  • Using the site’s resources page, Salts worked with the company’s communications team to transform their standardized presentation into one for high school audiences that could be easily customized by HR leaders responsible for local events.
  • Rogers and Salts “got buy-in and feedback from senior leadership” early in the planning process.
  • They ensured their events were dynamic, interactive and interesting to the students because “we didn’t want to sit them in a conference room, watch a presentation and wish they were back at school!” Rogers said, with a laugh.

Facts and figures: Ducommun started its MFG Day planning “months” in advance, Salts said, and the work paid off. Here are some of the specific results:

  • More than 500 students attended and participated in Ducommun’s MFG Day events.
  • There were five in-school presentations by Ducommun team members.
  • The day included 17 student presentations.
  • There were six onsite visits by students to Ducommun performance centers.
  • The day had one virtual presentation.

The payoff: Ducommun’s participation in MFG Day is part of its commitment to build the next generation of creators and innovators, Salts said. Though it’s still too early for the company to have reaped the workforce rewards of its autumn outreach, Rogers said it has received a great deal of interest from students about full- and part-time jobs after graduation. Ducommun expects to fill many open positions in late spring and summer 2022.

  • “We invested in MFG Day because one of our core beliefs and commitments is to support the communities where we live and work,” Rogers said. “We emphasized that working at Ducommun wasn’t going to be just a job—this could be a long-term play for students because they can build a career with us. Being able to engage with them was invaluable.”

For more information on MFG Day and how to host a successful one next year, visit www.creatorswanted.org/resources/

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Parts Life, Inc. Family of Companies Builds Employee Homeownership

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At the Parts Life, Inc. family of companies (Parts Life, Inc.; DeVal Life Cycle Support, LLC; and LC Engineers), they’re not just working to solve product obsolescence, they’re also making it possible for employees to put down roots in their community. 

The company, based in Moorestown, New Jersey, works with all military branches, original equipment manufacturers and prime contractors in aerospace and defense to manufacture critical components that extend the life of mission-critical assets. Through a novel initiative, Parts Life also offers loans to employees to help them buy homes.

How it started: The Help U Buy program, or HUB, was the brainchild of founder and CEO Sam Thevanayagam, who knows just how important a home can be.

  • “The primary way that you create capital for yourself is to buy your first home,” said Thevanayagam. “I downsized my first home and bootstrapped Parts Life. I used my home as collateral to fund the acquisition of another company. Most things are funded by using your home as collateral.”

Thevanayagam thought up the program three years ago. After a few conversations with his Human Resources Department, he formalized the initiative and set it in motion.

How it works: The company offers interested employees a forgivable loan, and the employees work it off through service over the course of five years, with no additional responsibilities. According to Thevanayagam, more than 25 people have taken advantage of the program since he created it—including 17 employees in the last year alone.

  • “We want every single person who works for us to be part of the American Dream,” said Thevanayagam. “When you own your first home, that sets you up for everything else. It gives you stability.”

The impact: Thevanayagam believes that the culture of a company is critical and that the HUB program speaks to Parts Life’s commitment to its employees. Parts Life also focuses on training designed to strengthen employees’ skill sets. The company frequently fills new positions by promoting from within as a demonstration of its investment in its workers.

  • “It’s mutually beneficial, because it’s helping people become more valuable to the organization and themselves,”said Thevanayagam.

The last word: “My purpose is to create an environment where others can meet their God-given potential,” said Thevanayagam. “It’s a CEO’s responsibility to have the right culture. At the end of the day, I’m the bearer of that culture. I help create it, defend it. I take that job very seriously. It’s like gardening; you have to create the environment and make sure you’re working on it carefully so people have chance to grow and bloom.”

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ABB Apprentices Join the Next Generation of Manufacturers

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As manufacturers work to fill the skills gap and hire more employees, some are modernizing a tried-and-true approach: taking on apprentices. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, ABB—an industrial electric motor and robotics manufacturer—is leading the way with its innovative program for local high school students.

How it works: Apprentices work three hours per day, four days per week during the school year and then 40 hours per week during the summer. ABB trains them in a range of roles to provide them with a strong foundation in manufacturing skills and the ability to work their way into an advanced technician role.

A win-win: “These students are getting paid, and paid well for a part-time job,” said ABB Vice President of Operations Johnny McKusker. “They learn a variety of skills that most juniors and seniors in high school aren’t exposed to. And if they decide they like manufacturing and want to stay on, then we’re getting a person who joined us early, has had a lot of training and investment and is able to contribute at a high level early in their career.”

What comes next: Last year, nearly all of ABB’s apprentices took on permanent roles within the company after graduating. They were also able to continue their education through a local university, with ABB providing tuition reimbursement to help them pay for it.

A pitch for manufacturing: “Manufacturing as a career has changed significantly in the last 25 years,” said McKusker. “It’s not hot, dirty and dangerous work. Instead, it offers technical skill development and an opportunity to earn a good living.”

The experience: According to at least one participant in the program, the apprenticeship has been an excellent way to learn important skills and gain experience in a real work environment.

  • “My experience has been great,” said Nadia, a current apprentice working on the digital solutions team. “It’s given me the opportunity to learn about manufacturing, but also about bonding and building relationships with my colleagues. I’m getting the experience of what a real job would be like outside of school.”

The last word: “I want to continue working for this company,” said Nadia. “I took this apprenticeship because ABB was my dream job from the start, because of how great they are in industrial engineering. Seeing the opportunities here and seeing how they take care of bonding and relationship building—it’s something I really like and appreciate.”

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“You Guys Rock”: Creators Wanted Inspires Dallas/Fort Worth

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As the final 2021 stop on the Creators Wanted Tour Live circuit, Dallas/Fort Worth had quite a few expectations to live up to—and live up to them it did.

Big impact: With more than 1,000 students attending events, participating in panel talks and discussions and “racing to the future” in the Creators Wanted immersive experience, the Dallas/Fort Worth visit of the joint NAM/Manufacturing Institute project designed to inspire and educate the next generation of manufacturers had a very large audience—and a receptive one at that.

  • “When we first mentioned it to them, they had never heard of Creators Wanted,” said Roberta Woodard, a high school professor at TCC South Collegiate High School in Fort Worth, of her students, who attended the Creators Wanted events. “But they were really excited about obtaining any information that they could to help prepare them for graduation.… These kids have [now] shown a great interest in hopping into the workforce as soon as they graduate.”

A truly hands-on experience: During the four-day tour stop, students, teachers and parents were able to try out numerous activities related to manufacturing, including using the VRTEX virtual reality arc welding training system and piloting drones at the Fort Worth Independent School District’s mobile STEM lab, exploring Vuforia augmented reality by PTC, interacting with displays by, and meeting creators at, Stanley Black & Decker, Cornerstone Building Brands, CRH and Nucor and completing the puzzles and escape-room challenges in the Creators Wanted mobile experience.

The chance to see and feel manufacturing firsthand was a game-changer for many attendees. 

  • “Sometimes it’s hard to teach students from a textbook, or even from online materials,” said Tuan Tran, professor of career and technical education at TCC South Collegiate High School. “And when they see real people here in front of them, talking to them, it gives them a little bit of a peek into what’s possible in the future.”

Family and money: One of the possibilities when it comes to manufacturing careers is the opportunity to make a very comfortable living, and to do so in an environment that values its employees, panelists told Creators Wanted attendees.

  • “Now more than ever we need people in trades, we need people in the manufacturing industry, so manufacturing companies are starting to pay [what] you’re worth,” Oldcastle Infrastructure Plant Manager Brandon Castillo said during a Creators Wanted panel talk and Q&A session, echoing the findings of a recent joint MI–Deloitte study, which found that if the U.S. continues on its current trajectory, the U.S. will have more than 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030.

“For me, it allows me the ability to take my kids to Disneyland or Disney World and just do a bunch of family activities that I’m not sure would be afforded to me if I didn’t choose manufacturing.”

Students had the opportunity to draw insights from not just the exhibitors, but also from Celanese, Specialty Packaging, Georgia-Pacific and the MI’s Heroes MAKE America initiative.

News nods: Texas and national media outlets, including the Fort Worth Business Press, NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth, KRLD Morning News 1080, The Dana Show and The Dan Bongino Show covered Creators Wanted Tour Live Dallas/Fort Worth.

Highlights from the stop: Here is a glance at some of the action:

Crowley High School students watch, mesmerized, as they see the laser engraver—and modern technology—help them unlock the next room of the immersive challenge. More than 74% of students who were skeptical about manufacturing left the experience either very or somewhat interested in learning more about manufacturing careers.

Students from Tarrant County College South hear about the career paths at Stanley Black & Decker.

Students from Young Men’s Leadership Academy listen as Khristopher Kuker, plant manager, Dallas U.S. Windows Plant, Cornerstone Building Brands, lays out potential career paths at the company.

CRH brought crafts to the table, giving students a chance to connect one of its products, Sakrete concrete, with some of the attributes of manufacturing careers.

A student from North Crowley High School reacts to PTC’s augmented reality software.

The race to the future had students working together to correctly identify the Honda vehicle from hints “left” inside the immersive experience from design, engineering and testing Honda associates.

On stage, Specialty Packaging President Hank Dorris and his mentee, Brian Wade, emphasize the importance of mentorship to students at Jacquet Middle School. Dorris, whose company makes products for companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Sonic, Chili’s and Wrigley, was personally instrumental in bringing the tour to Fort Worth, marshalling major school districts and key partners to engage as many students as possible.

The social media response: School participants, including Tarrant County College and Kennedale Career & Technical Education, tweeted photos of their students learning about manufacturing careers—and having a blast doing it.

The tally: In addition to more than 1,000 students who joined the tour, the tour stop helped Creators Wanted move beyond 153,000 email signups from students and other individuals interested in manufacturing careers and exceed 138 million digital impressions.

The last word: The Creators Wanted Tour Live had such a positive reception it was invited for an encore. Said Woodard: “You guys rock. Come back and see us.”

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A Union Pacific Executive Gets Career on Track

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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.”

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“You’ll Never Be Bored”: Exciting Careers on Display in Dallas/Fort Worth

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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.

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Making a Difference: Creators Wanted Visits Charlotte

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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.

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.”

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‘Manufacturing Opportunity Awaits’: Creators Wanted Arrives in Charlotte

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It’s more than just the name of an educational tour. It’s an urgent message, too: Creators are indeed wanted and in great numbers.

That was the theme of the kickoff event of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Creators Wanted Tour Live stop, which took place Tuesday amid a packed crowd of students, community and education leaders at Central Piedmont Community College—North Carolina’s largest community college.

Perfect timing: The Creators Wanted campaign, a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, seeks to inspire, educate and empower the workforce of tomorrow. And manufacturing sorely needs more members for that workforce, said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee.

  • “This is part of a campaign that could truly not come at a more important time for the manufacturing industry and for emerging workers across the United States,” Lee told the audience of students from nearby West Mecklenburg High School and Anson High School, adding that there are nearly 900,000 job openings in manufacturing.

Getting ready and providing access: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, joining the premier event via video, told the audience, “With our community-college training and with partnerships with high schools, colleges and universities across the state, we’re getting North Carolinians ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow…. Manufacturing opportunity awaits.”

  • North Carolina boasts the fifth-largest manufacturing economy in the country, Gov. Cooper noted.
  • “When we can partner with initiatives such as Creators Wanted, we see it as another channel through which we can provide access to anyone who wants to pursue a path to greater opportunity and economic mobility,” said Community College Chief Academic Officer Heather Hill.

“Best and brightest”: Creators Wanted Legacy Sponsor Trane Technologies is actively hiring manufacturers, said Trane Technologies Executive Chair and NAM Board Chair Mike Lamach.

  • Trane Technologies wants “to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world,” Lamach said. “To do that, we need the best. We need the brightest. We need diverse thinkers. We need creators, and we need you. Our doors are open to everyone.”

Lamach, a driving force and leader behind the Creators Wanted movement, praised how the campaign pulls students “into the many different possibilities in manufacturing” and emphasized to students from West Mecklenburg and Anson high schools: “You really do hold our future in your hands.” Watch highlights from Lamach’s remarks here.

Preparing for life: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston underscored the need for students to be prepared for whatever comes next, be it higher education or the workforce.

  • “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools … continues to look for ways to partner with innovative education partners and manufacturers to provide our students with experiences that will prepare them for careers,” Winston said. “Our highest priority is preparing students for life once they leave our schools for college or careers.”

“What manufacturing is all about”: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons urged event attendees to think big about manufacturing and the possibilities before them.

  • “I have no idea what the next great invention is that’s going to completely change the world, but what if you were the person who did that?” Timmons asked the audience. You can do that. That’s what manufacturing is all about.”

Related: WSOC TV was one of the news stations in attendance and filed this report, where student Janita Willoughby put the impact of touring the mobile experience this way: “I didn’t know what manufacturing was … [The experience] was fun … It makes me consider this as a job because you can make a lot of money, and you’re doing stuff you like.”

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Interactive Experience Meets Job Coaching: Creators Wanted in Iowa

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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.

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.”

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‘A Heck of a Lot of Fun’: Creators Wanted Kicks Off Pella Stop

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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.

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