Fernando Gonzalez grew up admiring his aunt because she served in the army—and when it came time for him to choose a career, he wanted to follow in her footsteps. He joined the U.S. Navy when he graduated from high school, working in navigation. But he still wanted to continue his education, so he eventually went to college, supporting himself by working as a security guard and later as a customer service representative for an auto company. At the same time, he joined the U.S. Army National Guard—giving him plenty to do all at once.
- “I was doing school, work and the National Guard,” said Gonzalez. “I suppose I’ve had a kaleidoscope kind of career—lots happening all at the same time.”
- Eventually, he decided to return to active duty and joined the U.S. Army as an industrial maintenance specialist. But when he completed his service, he found himself looking for a new kind of role.
A new path: As he was preparing to leave active duty, Gonzalez took advantage of the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program through his local transition office. It was there that he learned about The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America initiative. He joined the logistics career skills training program at Fort Stewart near Savannah, Georgia—led by Heroes MAKE America and education partner Savannah Technical College—and got to work.
- Through an eight-week accelerated training program, he learned about manufacturing while also getting hands-on experience.
- After interviewing with a recruiter from Cargill, a global food corporation based in Wayzata, Minnesota, Gonzalez was offered a position. Today, he works at the company as an operations manager.
What is Heroes MAKE America? The MI—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—designed Heroes MAKE America as an integrated certification and career-readiness training program that helps prepare transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military spouses for careers in manufacturing. The initiative offers in-person training and remote training options, as well as career support and placement.
A positive experience: Gonzalez enjoyed the opportunity to learn about manufacturing and logistics and particularly appreciated being exposed to a wide array of careers in the industry.
- “Heroes was great,” said Gonzalez. “We toured some plants in the Savannah area, near where I was stationed in Fort Stewart. We saw a crew ship at port, we toured a steel mill, we learned about manufacturing and logistics.”
A smooth transition: Gonzalez found that his new career had plenty of similarities with his time in the military, making it a good match for the talents and work style he had honed there.
- “The soft skills correlate,” said Gonzalez. “You still deal with people; you still deal with some type of chain of command. You have goals for the day, the week, the quarter. In the military, we talk about missions, and that’s still what we do here. In the military we have this attitude of getting things done, figure it out. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done it before—you figure it out and make it happen, and that’s been true here, too.”
A great job: Gonzalez has enjoyed learning new processes and applying his skills in new areas, working to maintain and operate equipment that receives, stores and loads commodities like corn and soybeans onto train cars for shipping. “Every day I learn something new,” he said.
The last word: “Manufacturing is a crucial industry,” said Gonzalez. “It has incredible opportunities at all skill levels. It’s vital to our country, to our security. And it’s not going away.”
Job openings in manufacturing remain high, with many manufacturers citing the shortage of skilled labor as a major business challenge. Increasingly, companies are taking a closer look at their internal cultures and asking themselves a crucial question: How can we make ourselves more attractive to new recruits from diverse backgrounds?
Seeking all willing workers: Panelists at the recent D&I Roundtable: Recruiting and Retaining LGBT+ Employees, hosted by The Manufacturing Institute, discussed the growing awareness among manufacturers of ensuring that their companies are LGBT+-friendly workplaces.
- “When you build a psychologically safe environment, all employees benefit from it because all employees will start to share their ideas without [fear of] retribution,” said Entegris Senior Manager of Talent Management & Development Phillip Spencer.
- “More generations identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and want to work for companies that … support [them]. So, it really will benefit everyone and the bottom line of all of our companies” to be inclusive of the LGBT+ community.
Say no to “rainbow washing”: To recruit talent who identify as LGBT+, panelists agreed, manufacturers must genuinely create an accepting, open culture rather than just engage in “rainbow washing,”—i.e., adding a rainbow to company branding while offering few, if any, benefits to actual LGBT+ people.
- Make sure your company is “really aligning your policies and your practices and those unspoken rules in your organization to make sure that you are doing the things that you say that you believe in when you’re talking about supporting the [LGBT+] community,” said Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Georgia Power Company and Southern Company Sloane Drake.
- Entegris went back to basics with its inclusivity efforts, Spencer said, and it’s worked. “We started with a program talking about what does LGBTQ+ mean? And what does it mean in the workplace? Why are we talking about this in the workplace?”
- The company also rejiggered its employee retirement fund structure when it realized the old setup did not account for same-sex couples, Spencer added.
Seek out ambassadors, but don’t push: LGBT+ employees can act as ambassadors to help a company build trust among other LGBT+ workers and prospective new talent, speakers said. Companies should seek out such potential representatives, but without assuming they will want to take on the responsibility.
- “Nobody knows better what the experience is like than somebody who’s going through it,” said Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Senior Engineer Arwen Kathke, who is also the community outreach chair for the Goodyear pride network. “Including those employees in your decision-making processes and having those conversations with them to understand what their experience is will go a long way.”
- “We’ve really spent a lot of time educating” our workforce, Drake said. “It’s not the responsibility of every LGBTQ+ employee in our organization to explain what [LGBT+] means. We’ve actually put some of our employees who were willing through storytelling training; they felt very comfortable being able to share and tell their stories in large meetings and on videos and podcasts, and that was very powerful. But [you don’t want] to make it feel like the one person in the room who [identifies as LGBT+] has to be the only one who can speak on that topic.”
Measuring success: How can manufacturers determine whether they’re reaching LGBT+ talent? There are various way, panelists said.
- “There’s one great metric that’s going to help any organization understand 100% if it’s inclusive: Do you allow people to self-identify?” Drake said.
- Another way is to review employee representation data, as well as the number of self-identifying people moving through leadership-development pipelines into leadership positions.
The last word: “If you create a supportive environment and have your internal development done,” said Kathke, “with employees who are starting to step up and really foster that environment, that’s going to work out a lot better in the long run.”
A record breaker. That’s the best way to describe the all-time high attendance rates, email subscriber numbers and other signs of surging interest in manufacturing careers brought about by the Creators Wanted Tour stop at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland, Michigan, last week.
Family first: The nationwide tour, a joint initiative of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, marked its 10th stop July 13–16. This stop’s overarching theme: family, according to Dow Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Jim Fitterling.
- Dow sponsored the golf invitational, the first LPGA event to achieve carbon neutrality, as well as the four-day Creators Wanted event. The company also recently more than doubled its commitment to the Creators Wanted campaign, to $2 million.
- “You’ll see many, many families out here,” Fitterling told the audience at the tour stop’s kickoff event. “The reason we’ve got the family focus here is that it’s not just about students; it’s also about parents. 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.”
Shifting perceptions: One of the reasons that recent generations of parents haven’t encouraged their children to go into manufacturing? Misconceptions, explained Fitterling. But those are starting to change, he and other kickoff-event panelists said.
- “Sometimes [parents and students] have perceptions about manufacturing that just aren’t current,” Fitterling said. “Creators Wanted is about … [giving] them a hands-on experience to show them what’s going on in advanced manufacturing today.”
- MI President Carolyn Lee cited MI–Deloitte survey data showing significant recent growth in the percentage of parents who say they would encourage their children to enter manufacturing: 40%, up from 27% in 2017. “The good news is we are already making a dent on change,” Lee said.
Just plain fun: For many of the attendees at last week’s Midland tour stop, “racing to the future” in the Creators Wanted immersive experience/high-tech escape rooms, meeting creators at Dow, getting career coaching tips from FactoryFix, learning about opportunities in Michigan with the Michigan Manufacturers Association and participating in all the other family-friendly events was as much about having a good time as considering a new career path.
- “Having to use teamwork to exit the escape room and things like that, I find it really interesting,” said one student participant. “I take away that I could … have a career in manufacturing.”
- In addition to the immersive experience, there were activities and games in the STEM Center, where “kids, students and parents or other supervising adults [could] see how STEM relates to not only sports but other technologies that can help us ‘imagine better,’” such as 3D printing, said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas.
- The next generation of manufacturers were also welcomed to take part in “Friction Hockey” and “Binary Bits” experiments, which let them see how surface friction affects object movement and translate computer code into phrases using LEGO blocks, respectively.
- There was also a fully stocked “Kid Zone” with miniature golf and a giant mural to which kids were encouraged to add their own artwork, as well as a “First Tee Junior Clinic,” hosted by the nonprofit First Tee, which aims to teach children life skills through golf.
Women in manufacturing: Midland was also the site of an important announcement from Lee during a fireside chat with Dow Senior Vice President of Operations, Manufacturing and Engineering John Sampson: Dow will provide a $500,000 grant over four years to support the MI’s Women MAKE America’s 35×30 campaign.
- The campaign’s goal: to increase the representation of women in the manufacturing workforce to 35% by 2030.
Major impact: The Dow GLBI tour stop generated a lot of interest.
- More than 47,000 email subscribers from Michigan signed up to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
- More than 1,550 students, parents and/or attending adults went through the immersive experience.
- Ninety-six percent of surveyed immersive-experience participants reported an improved view of modern manufacturing, and 72% of respondents who had previously described manufacturing as “dirty,” “dangerous,” “old-fashioned,” “part of the past” or “traditional” described manufacturing as “modern,” “innovative,” “high tech” or “creative” in the latest survey.
Just some of the mentions: Many media outlets covered the event, including the following:
- Creators Wanted Experience encourages kids to explore manufacturing jobs (ABC News 12)
- Creators wanted — opportunity abounds in manufacturing, a joint op-ed by Fitterling and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons (Crain’s Detroit Business)
- ‘Creators Wanted’ conveys urgency of manufacturing labor shortage (Midland Daily News)
- This is your chance to create the future, an op-ed by Michigan Manufacturers Association President John Walsh (Midland Daily News)
The last word: The Creators Wanted mobile experience encapsulates what modern manufacturing is all about, said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who toured it along with Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud.
- The experience “showcased … new styles of recruiting & making the safety, inclusion, creativity & technology the new normal,” Nessel tweeted. “The Creators Wanted interactive experience was so cool!”
Watch now! See a video of tour-stop highlights here.
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.
If you want to be like Andrea Tucker, just ask her how she got to where she is today—she’ll happily help you plot a path to professional success like hers.
Rising to the top: Tucker is a complex plant manager at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the largest pork-processing plant in the world. But she didn’t begin there, and she wants other Smithfield employees to know it.
- “I started as an hourly employee on third shift, and now I’m running the plant,” said Tucker, a 2019 honoree of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards (now the Women MAKE America Awards). “If you want to be me, let’s put a plan together and work toward it. At Smithfield, if you put in the work, it gets noticed.”
Manufacturing from the start: Tucker, a Georgia native, grew up on a small tobacco farm. In 2000, a lifetime affinity for numbers, process and mathematics led her to answer an ad seeking an accounting inventory clerk at Smithfield.
- “For me, working in manufacturing kind of closed the gap of what happens after things are grown or made or after animals are raised,” Tucker said. “A passion was ignited in me: [for] the process flows, the ‘people’ side of things and how things work. I could use my love of math and make and see real change. From that day on, I felt like I could do something that mattered.”
“You’re your own limit”: Since joining Smithfield, Tucker has worked in multiple positions across the meat-packing company’s accounting and operations teams. Along the way, she received encouragement from management, and that backing has led her to become a trusted mentor to other employees.
- “[When I was an hourly worker], I was told, ‘You have a good grasp of how things work. You know how to motivate and inspire people. Have you thought of operations?’” Tucker recalled of her first career change within Smithfield. “Smithfield is a big advocate of ‘you’re your own limit.’ You’re not tied to one plant or position or department.”
- At the company’s urging, after 12 years in Tar Heel, Tucker took a position at Smithfield’s Wilson, North Carolina, facility as plant manager.
Women in manufacturing: The move “inspired me to see results, not only in processes but in other people, primarily women,” Tucker said.
- “For many [of the women at the facility], I was not only Andrea the manager but Andrea the counselor, Andrea the person I can talk to about this problem I’m having with my 13-year-old,” she said. “There were a lot of single moms.”
- The success stories among this contingent are many, Tucker said. Here’s one: Tucker noticed that an employee, a young mother, was struggling personally—and she learned that the woman was at risk of losing custody of her children. “I said, ‘Look, I know you have three kids, and this is not the life you wanted. I need you to be able to be that responsible parent. Smithfield has an employee assistance program; let’s get you enrolled. If I get your commitment that you’re ready for change, I will make sure you stay that course.’”
- The employee did. “She put forth the effort. She and her kids, they’re thriving. She’s even enrolled in one of our emerging leaders programs.”
Opportunities abound: Smithfield continues to create pathways to professional advancement for its employees. These include:
- A tuition reimbursement program;
- A mentorship program; and
- Women’s Connect, a mentorship program specifically for women.
Continuing to inspire: Tucker came back to Tar Heel earlier this year, in another step upward within the company. When she was first offered her current job, Tucker—despite having coached so many employees successfully—wasn’t sure she would be able to do it.
- “Then I told myself, ‘Think about all the stories where people said they never thought they could do more,’” she said. “It reminded me, ‘You reached out and touched so many people at Wilson, why are you not giving yourself the same opportunity in Tar Heel, back where you started?’”
The last word: Tucker has advice for those daunted by moving up the ladder at work. “At the end of the day, it’s just people,” she said. “You take it one day at a time, and you just try to touch the lives of as many people as you can.”
MIDLAND, Mich. – Dow, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute announced today that Dow has committed an additional $1 million to the Creators Wanted campaign. This new pledge is on top of the $1 million Dow has already contributed to the NAM and the MI’s campaign designed to educate, inspire and empower the next generation of manufacturers.
Dow’s latest financial contribution ensures Creators Wanted can continue to recruit new manufacturers online and in person throughout 2022, bringing the experience to thousands of additional students, parents, career mentors and community leaders nationwide. Creators Wanted will make its next public stop at the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational July 13–16, bringing the experience to thousands of tournament goers and students.
“It is now more important than ever to invest in America’s future manufacturing workforce,” said Dow Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Jim Fitterling. “Not only does the fate of U.S. manufacturing competitiveness rest in significant part on our ability to build the future workforce, but we also have an opportunity to lift up more people with the promise and possibility of manufacturing careers. Dow is proud to invest an additional $1 million in the NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted campaign. We’ve already been able to inspire thousands of students through Creators Wanted and look forward to bringing this experience to Midland and other communities moving forward.”
In addition to the upcoming Creators Wanted activation at GLBI, Dow’s new round of support will bring the mobile experience to several more cities, including Chicago, Columbia, South Carolina, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, among others, throughout fall 2022 and into spring 2023. This capitalizes on the momentum from Dow’s previous contribution that helped bring Creators Wanted to six U.S. cities—Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; Pella, Iowa; Charlotte, North Carolina; Fort Worth, Texas; and Freeport, Texas—for its inaugural fall 2021 tour.
Manufacturing in the United States today has more than 900,000 open jobs. By 2025, Creators Wanted aims to recruit 600,000 new manufacturers; increase the number of students enrolling in technical and vocational schools or reskilling programs by 25%; and increase the positive perception of the industry among parents and career mentors. The campaign features a first-of-its-kind student- and teacher-endorsed traveling immersive experience and jobs tour, which has brought together more than 5,000 students in person and recruited more than 200,000 students and career mentors to learn more about modern manufacturing careers after only seven brief stops.
“Dow’s unwavering commitment to manufacturing and Creators Wanted will allow us to do more to tackle the critical need for workers now and reach into more local communities to educate teachers, parents and other career mentors and students about rewarding careers in modern manufacturing,” said NAM President and CEO and MI Board Chair Jay Timmons. “The NAM is proud to announce our continued and strong partnership with Dow to strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and build the American manufacturing workforce of tomorrow.”
The campaign is also underpinned by sustained workforce development and education initiatives at the MI, targeting youth, veterans, women and other underrepresented communities throughout the country.
“The MI is grateful to Dow whose support bolsters our ability to achieve a critical component of our mission—to attract and develop world-class manufacturing talent,” said MI President Carolyn Lee. “With Dow’s support, the MI can expand our reach, furthering our opportunities to educate the next generation of manufacturers on the lucrative and fulfilling careers that exist in modern manufacturing for people of all backgrounds and interests.”
Through the campaign, the NAM seeks to continue its mission to remediate common misperceptions about careers in manufacturing and provide resources and opportunities that will help reduce the skills gap and improve lives.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.7 million men and women, contributes $2.71 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.
-The Manufacturing Institute-
The MI grows and supports the manufacturing industry’s skilled workers for the advancement of modern manufacturing. The MI’s diverse initiatives support all workers in America, including women, veterans and students, through skills training programs, community building and the advancement of their career in manufacturing. As the workforce development and education partner of the NAM, the MI is a trusted adviser to manufacturers, equipping them with resources necessary to solve the industry’s toughest challenges. For more information on the MI, please visit www.themanufacturinginstitute.org.
Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines global breadth; asset integration and scale; focused innovation and materials science expertise; leading business positions; and environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership to achieve profitable growth and deliver a sustainable future. The Company’s ambition is to become the most innovative, customer centric, inclusive and sustainable materials science company in the world. Dow’s portfolio of plastics, industrial intermediates, coatings and silicones businesses delivers a broad range of differentiated, science-based products and solutions for its customers in high-growth market segments, such as packaging, infrastructure, mobility and consumer applications. Dow operates 104 manufacturing sites in 31 countries and employs approximately 35,700 people. Dow delivered sales of approximately $55 billion in 2021. References to Dow or the Company mean Dow Inc. and its subsidiaries. For more information, please visit www.dow.com or follow @DowNewsroom on Twitter.
This week, the Creators Wanted Tour Live made its eighth national tour stop—at Walmart’s 9th annual open call for entrepreneurs and manufacturers.
Drawing a crowd: On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Creators Wanted mobile experience was onsite in Bentonville, Arkansas, as 1,100 small and medium-sized business owners pitched their products to Walmart and Sam’s Club for Walmart’s Open Call 2022. The ultimate prize for the business owners? A “gold ticket” to get their products into the stores.
- The two-day Creators Wanted stop drew more than 2,000 people, many of whom jumped at the opportunity to solve puzzles and “race to the future” in the award-winning, immersive escape room.
- In addition to Walmart, Chart Industries, a leading global manufacturer of highly engineered equipment servicing multiple applications in clean energy and industrial gas markets, helped bring the experience to Open Call attendees and the Bentonville community.
- The tour, which aims to generate interest in and excitement about manufacturing careers, is a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner The Manufacturing Institute.
Committed to manufacturing: The aim of bringing Creators Wanted to this year’s Open Call was to bolster the positive perception of modern manufacturing careers, recruit new manufacturers and connect entrepreneurs and manufacturers with the MI’s workforce-shortage solutions.
- Walmart has committed to spending $350 billion on products made, grown or assembled in the U.S., in addition to the $250 billion the company pledged in 2013 to spend on similar products.
- Total estimated job growth from these investments: 750,000 new American positions by 2031.
Who was there: MI President Carolyn Lee and Vice President of Program Execution Herb Grant were on hand to give manufacturers greater insight into the MI’s growing set of solutions to the dearth of skilled manufacturing labor.
- Also onsite was new Creators Wanted partner FactoryFix, whose team members helped attendee manufacturers source new talent for their businesses and taught job seekers how to build rewarding careers in the industry.
The reaction: “Wherever we go with our Creators Wanted Tour—including here in Bentonville, Arkansas—students, parents, career mentors and even professionals in other industries see what manufacturing can mean and create for futures,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas. “It’s showing there’s dignity, a “cool” factor and massive reward in making things in the United States. Eyes light up.”
The reach: On the second day of the event, more than 3,000 students had already signed up online to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
Up next: Coinciding with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on the LPGA tour, the Creators Wanted Tour Live will make its ninth stop in Midland, Michigan, July 13–16.
The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s workforce development and education partner, is hard at work preparing for MFG Day 2022, coming up on Oct. 7 and celebrated throughout the month of October. In a recent webinar—led by MI Director of Student Engagement Jen White—participants learned about the importance of MFG Day, as well as best practices for planning an MFG Day event.
What it is: MFG Day, organized nationally by the MI, is the industry’s largest grassroots movement to open doors to manufacturing for students, parents and educators.
- A major goal of MFG Day is to change common misconceptions and stereotypes about the manufacturing industry, letting participating students see for themselves that manufacturing plants are modern, safe workplaces that use the most technologically advanced processes to create all kinds of crucial goods.
- Host companies often welcome a mix of students, educators, parents and community leaders and provide them with an inside view of the industry—and the careers available.
Why it matters: MFG Day is crucial to solving the impending workforce crisis in the industry.
- Manufacturers will need to fill about 4 million jobs by 2030, but right now, more than half of those jobs are projected to be unfilled because of a lack of qualified talent or skills. That shortage could cost the U.S. economy up to $1 trillion!
- “We have to increase awareness among students, educators, parents and other adults of influence and the public in general of the importance that manufacturers play in our daily lives,” said White.
Planning an event: The MI has a variety of resources available to help companies plan and execute their MFG Day events this year.
- Past events have ranged from open houses with tours to expos, job fairs and roundtable discussions—and often, companies team up with other manufacturers nearby to create a group event.
- Check out creatorswanted.org/resources for help.
Best practices: During the webinar, White noted that the key to a successful MFG Day event is knowing who your audience is and what they are interested in—and making sure your company can engage with them.
- This can include working with local schools, and also “local liaisons, your workforce boards, your chambers of commerce, local associations, community-based organizations like boys and girls clubs or the Girl Scouts,” said White. “There’s so many different organizations out there that already have wonderful relationships with youth and students.”
- “The key is getting involved and starting to build those partnerships with those schools and those community organizations—and not just to have it be on that one day, but continually. I say MFG Day is every day,” White added.
Timeline: The time to start planning an MFG Day event is today!
- White recommends that potential MFG day hosts begin planning event logistics and start contacting schools or community groups during the summer months.
- Once a plan is in place, it can be registered on the Creators Wanted website and officially listed.
The last word: “We must build ongoing partnerships between companies, community, organizations and schools to continue the engagement beyond one single connection opportunity or one day,” said White. “It won’t easy. It won’t be quick, but it is the way ahead, and students are our future.”
For parents who work the night shift, the prospects for high-quality child care are usually dim. Not so for those who work at one of Toyota’s major U.S. manufacturing sites, however.
Toyota North America has been providing onsite, 24-hour-a-day care for employees’ children at its largest global site, in Georgetown, Kentucky, since 1993, and at its Princeton, Indiana, facility since 2003. The company subsidizes care to ensure affordability for all employees.
Not just a retention tool: “I’ve been asked, ‘Is this just a retention tool?’” said Toyota Group Manager for People and Property Services Myriah Sweeney, who oversees the auto manufacturer’s Family Care Services division, which includes child care. “The answer is no. Our employees take care of us, and we take care of them.”
- This was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, when nearly one in five working-age adults left the labor force to care for children.
- Toyota’s care center stayed open and even offered in-person learning “pods” for school-age children.
The Toyota family: Employer-provided child care—particularly of the Toyota type, which is open overnight and on Saturdays and managed by the award-winning Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc.—is a highly prized benefit.
- “We hear from families all the time, ‘This is part of the reason I stay here,’” said Sweeney, who counts herself among that contingent. “We actually have some employees now that were kids in our center that we helped raise and are now teachers or are working at Toyota. It creates a sense of family.”
- Toyota’s child care benefit has “touched approximately 10% of the workforce” over the past five years, Sweeney said.
How it works: Toyota’s two care facilities, which “are open pretty much anytime Toyota is open,” cater to children as young as six weeks.
- There are pick-up and drop-off points for local school bus routes, and center employees feed breakfast to early morning arrivals and dinner to overnight and late-stay attendees.
- Care-center teachers also help with homework and get kids safely on and off buses.
Additional benefits: The vehicle maker’s Family Care Services extend beyond children to include tutoring and pet care company discounts, counseling services and informational help for employees who act as caregivers outside of work.
- Toyota also gives every team member 15 days a year of “emergency backup care,” a company-subsidized program that allows employees to have vetted, qualified care providers come to their houses to look after elderly relatives or children “when things go haywire—the water main breaks or a babysitter calls in sick,” Sweeney said.
Next up: Toyota plans to expand the child care capacity at its Indiana plant, to the tune of an additional 75 to 80 spots, Sweeney said.
- The company is also working with architectural firms in Mississippi to design a child care facility for its factory in that state, which is located in an area with few child care centers.
The last word: Toyota’s interest in providing employees with support goes beyond wanting to maintain its workforce.
- “We try to encompass everything that anybody would possibly need and help them with that,” Sweeney said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
If it hadn’t been for his cousin, Tagba Djato-Bougonou might never have found Tyson Foods.
In 2017, the engineer was working at a bank in Iowa, where he’d ultimately relocated after emigrating from Togo in West Africa. He was living with his cousin, who was working at Tyson Foods, when the cousin told him about Tyson’s 1+2 Maintenance Program.
“He told me about the good stuff that Tyson has and the 1+2 Maintenance Program and what I could achieve with it,” Djato-Bougonou recalls. “And I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to take a shot with that program.’”
- Djato-Bougonou, who has an engineering background and a graduate degree from a U.S. university, was quickly hired on as part of the initiative.
- 1+2 allows new hires to “earn while you learn” by splitting their workdays between a classroom and hands-on work in a Tyson facility. It gets its name from the one year of education and training participants do, followed by the two years they commit to working for the company.
The results speak for themselves: now a full-time project engineer in Tyson’s Fresh Meats department, Djato-Bougonou is also pursuing a Ph.D. in innovation and project management.
Tyson’s workforce initiatives are increasingly designed to find and reward employees like Djato-Bougonou, who come to Tyson with impressive professional backgrounds earned in other countries.
- “We try to find candidates that, like Tagba, have a deep portfolio outside the U.S. and [whom] we can upskill, with some English and some recertification in the U.S.,” said Tyson Foods Workforce Development Trailblazer Anson Green, who leads economic opportunity efforts, including the in-plant career-development program Upward Pathways.
- In many of the more rural communities that are home to Tyson plants, “there is no large labor pool to draw from,” Green said. Creating unique paths for non-native-born employees to fill skilled-worker roles is a strategy that has helped fill this void.
The success stories are numerous, including many team members who came to the company to apply for one job but, owing to education or work experience garnered internationally, were able to continue on a professional path they thought they’d had to give up.
- One team member, formerly a nurse in her home country, is now developing her English skills and preparing for recertification in the U.S. to work at one of Tyson’s onsite health clinics, according to Green.
- Another team member who now works at a Tyson Foods’ Arkansas plant was previously a legal aide in the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic. With Tyson’s support, she is also developing her English skills and will be applying to work as a paralegal in the company’s corporate office in Northwest Arkansas.
The last word: For Djato-Bougonou and other Tyson team members who have benefited from an encouraging corporate leadership, the sky’s now the professional limit.
- “I wanted to be part of things which can make a big difference in people’s lives,” Djato-Bougonou said, adding that with the 1+2 Program under his belt, he now feels empowered to do just that. “This program … gave me quite a lot of new skills. It changed a lot of things in my own life.”