Ellery Kring didn’t set out to begin a career in manufacturing. In fact, she wasn’t initially focused on a long-term career at all.
“I was pretty typical out of high school,” said Kring. “I needed some money and a job.”
The Kentucky native heard of a job opening at appliance manufacturer Bosch through someone she knew and secured an entry-level role that helped pay the bills. But when she learned about an apprenticeship opportunity through the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program, she saw a chance to build something more substantial.
The program: Founded in 2010 by Toyota and operated today by The Manufacturing Institute, FAME aims to help students become highly skilled, sought-after makers capable of meeting the unique needs and challenges of the modern manufacturing sector.
- It serves as a career pathway program for current and aspiring manufacturing workers, providing them with on-the-job training and classroom education, leading to an associate degree and the FAME Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.
A “no-brainer”: “Bosch is a pretty big sponsor of FAME in northern Kentucky, and I heard about it through word of mouth on the plant floor,” said Kring. “I had a strong feeling that I liked being in industry, and when I heard that Bosch had a program that would train you in maintenance and pay for your school, it was a no-brainer.”
- “They allowed us to shadow other departments—quality, manufacturing, logistics,” Kring said. “And in addition to a technical degree, they also gave you the soft skills to help you make your own career.”
The path: After her FAME graduation four years ago, Kring served as a Manufacturing Engineering Systems (MES) application engineer, helping to digitize the shop floor and integrate solutions to improve efficiency in production lines. Kring describes the role as “production IT”—maintaining, troubleshooting and implementing new solutions.
- She has recently moved onward and upward—on Aug. 1, she began a new project role that will allow her to focus on building server infrastructure and communications.
The support: Kring credits the FAME program with her success and especially appreciates that it allowed her to keep working while furthering her education.
- “I definitely have that program to credit for where I am now,” said Kring. “They got me the associate degree, which was such a big deal—having an actual degree. Other employers had certification programs, but this got me a degree.”
- “Because it’s hands on, I got to shadow an engineer, and since I was an apprentice, I got my foot in the door in this department,” said Kring. “If it wasn’t for the FAME program, I wouldn’t have seen this department, or known that I would have been interested in such a job.”
The industry: Kring notes that the reality of advanced manufacturing is far different from the stereotypes she had in mind when she first began considering a career in the industry. She encourages other job seekers to give it a second look:
- “Manufacturing is versatile,” said Kring. “I would highly advise people to be aware of
- how diverse and advanced it is. You could be in logistics and planning, or IT, or purchasing, or marketing.”
- “It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no one thing in manufacturing. It’s constantly growing and expanding. . . . Once you get your foot in the door, you have limitless possibilities for the rest of your life.”
Kring also encourages other women to join the field and says that, while manufacturing may currently be a male-dominated industry, there are plenty of opportunities for women who are interested in making their mark.
- “Women are perfectly capable of doing anything that a man” can do, said Kring. “There are women in this field, and we need more. I would tell women not to have preconceived notions about the industry. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t let any preconceived ideas or stereotypes stop you from going after it.”
The last word: “FAME set the path for my entire career,” said Kring. “I can’t speak highly enough about it. You can’t go wrong—it’s only a year and a half long program. It pays for your school, you get hands-on work experience, and you come out of it debt-free. It’s a quick program that has a lifetime effect in a positive way.”
This Friday, Oct. 7, manufacturers across the country will open their doors in an epic celebration of manufacturing in America. Students, parents, teachers, local leaders and many others will be welcomed into factories, technical schools and similar venues to see what modern manufacturing is really about.
What it is: Led by The Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s workforce development and education partner—MFG Day kicks off a monthlong series of events that provide an inside view of the industry and the exciting careers it offers.
This year’s events: MFG Day events include open houses, expos, job fairs, roundtable discussions and more across the United States, featuring many different types of manufacturing.
- This year, more than 500 companies and organizations are already on the national map of registered events, beating last year’s total.
- One of the flagship events will be hosted by SAS at its world headquarters in Cary, North Carolina, and include remarks from SAS CEO Jim Goodnight and Gov. Roy Cooper, as well as discussions with manufacturing leaders from Deere & Company, Mack Trucks, Johnson Controls and ABB. Experts from SAS and the MI will speak about technology, analytics and career paths in manufacturing, while manufacturing and technology exhibits will be open to visitors.
- In addition, the NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted mobile experience will stop at Nephron Nitrile’s new glove factory in West Columbia, South Carolina, giving visitors the chance to complete challenges that resemble real, creative manufacturing work.
Why it matters: The manufacturing industry will need to fill about 4 million jobs by 2030, and a lack of high-skilled workers threatens to leave more than half of those positions empty, according to a study by the MI and Deloitte. MFG Day is designed to increase awareness among the young people who could become the stars of tomorrow’s industry, showing them how much they stand to gain from choosing manufacturing as their career.
- Changing misconceptions: MFG Day helps the industry push back against misguided stereotypes, demonstrating that today’s industry is high skilled, high tech, clean, creative and welcoming to people of all backgrounds and talents.
- Opening doors: MFG Day events are also excellent opportunities to demystify the industry and show young people (along with their parents and teachers) a vision of an exciting future. The coolness factor matters—taking students through a dynamic, high-tech factory floor can fire their imaginations and change the course of their lives.
Don’t forget: If your company or organization is already on board and planning an MFG Day event, register it so that the MI can keep track of the industry’s outreach and highlight the impact of MFG Day nationwide.
- Find more resources to help you with MFG Day planning here. And check out these useful tips for promoting and sharing MFG Day content on social media.
What we’re saying: “This is manufacturing’s biggest annual stage to inspire the next generation,” said MI Director of Student Engagement Jen White. “We hope anyone who cares about the industry’s future will use their social media platforms and amplify #MFGDay22, to showcase why manufacturers are saying ‘Creators Wanted.’”
If you’re a student or job seeker looking for tailored career guidance combined with some hands-on, immersive fun, White House, Tennessee, was the place for you to be last week.
National impact: The Creators Wanted Tour, a joint project by the NAM and MI, made its 10th national tour stop at White House Heritage High School on Sept. 27–29.
- There, more than 700 students from four schools in Tennessee’s Robertson County went through the Creators Wanted mobile immersive experience, the award-winning, manufacturing-themed escape room–like activity in which participants work together to solve challenges in a “race to the future.”
- They also got the opportunity to chat with on-site sponsor representatives from Electrolux, Schneider Electric and FactoryFix about the many rewarding, well-paying career paths available in the industry.
- Local partners, including the Robertson County Economic Development Board, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, were also on hand to answer jobs- and manufacturing-related questions.
Calling all creators: During the Tennessee stop’s premier event, speakers underscored the need for more skilled workers to fill the millions of open manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
- “Here in Tennessee, our industry has more jobs to fill than there are people looking for them,” Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Tennessee Manufacturers Association President and CEO Bradley Jackson said.
- Speaking from firsthand experience about the many benefits of choosing one of those jobs was Tony Fraley, a plant manager for Electrolux. “I’m living proof of the great career opportunities in the field of advanced manufacturing,” said Fraley, who started at the company “running a process that coats dishwasher racks.”
- “I grew up about two hours from here in a small town very similar to White House,” he continued. “I always liked math and science. … I hope that stories like [mine] inspire the next generation of workers to consider a career that’s not only been good to me, but also offers a strong opportunity to earn a family-sustaining wage in a high-demand field.”
The numbers: The Tennessee stop resulted in more than 52,000 email signups from people interested in learning more about manufacturing careers.
An eye-opener: Students had a great time at last week’s events—and were pleasantly surprised to learn just how many interesting options manufacturing could offer them.
- “Creators Wanted made me excited about my future,” said one student.
- Added another, “Creators Wanted made me think more about my future in manufacturing.”
The last word: It’s past time for manufacturing careers to get their due as the gratifying professions they are, according to the Creators Wanted Spotlight panelists (and manufacturing company employees).
- Manufacturing “is definitely very rewarding [from a salary standpoint] but also the lifestyle that you get to have,” said Schneider Electric Manufacturing Engineer Zoie McFarland. “I get to go boating every weekend. I get to go hiking. I travel a lot. … Also, I was able to buy a house at 25. So, I think that is one major benefit—the lifestyle [manufacturing] gives you and the benefits that come from it.”
Robertson County, Tennessee, is a battleground—for companies vying for talent. With approximately 14,000 students in the school district, it’s a prime target for manufacturers looking to attract more young workers by shifting perceptions among parents, educators and students themselves.
What’s happening: The Creators Wanted Tour, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s effort to build the workforce of the future, kicked off its fall 2022 tour yesterday in White House, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. The stop’s premier event offered a glimpse of the advantage the tour gives manufacturers over other industries.
- “Our mission is to enable all students … to succeed … in a technologically advanced and culturally diverse society,” Dr. Chris Causey, director of schools for Robertson County, said at the kickoff event, calling Creators Wanted “a life-changing experience.”
- The stop was made possible by support from Dow and Honda, as well as more than 70 other manufacturing companies, including Tennessee stop hosts Electrolux and Schneider Electric.
The pitch and platform: Area manufacturing leaders held students’ attention as they spoke about the resilience of the industry and the reward of manufacturing careers.
- “Preliminary job numbers for August already show that Tennessee has reached its highest manufacturing employment level in over a decade—that’s over 360,000 Tennesseans,” said Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association, the official NAM and MI affiliate organization in Tennessee and key partner in the tour’s first-ever stop in the state.
- Tony Fraley, the Electrolux plant manager in Springfield, didn’t just trumpet the company’s new, $250 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. He explained to students that robots and cobots are increasing the industry’s need for technical skills, which enables workers with these skills to make “family-sustaining wages in a high-demand field.”
- “We have a lot of job openings, really good jobs,” said Ken Engel, senior vice president, global supply chain – North America at Schneider Electric. He highlighted the company’s advanced development program, where students “fresh out of college have a rotational program” to get experience in supply chain, logistics, lean manufacturing, marketing, finance and other disciplines.
The Creators Wanted experience: “The skills and technology on display here will help change Tennesseans’ understanding of what a manufacturing team does and how they do it,” said MI President Carolyn Lee.
- “So, for those of you who’ve gone through our mobile experience—did you have fun?” asked NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, causing students to nod in agreement.
- Hoping to spur more career exploration, he concluded with this: “Have you learned that you can make a lot of money in manufacturing, doing things you like to do? That’s just a taste of what our industry is about and what manufacturing teams do every day.”
Early returns: More than 200 attendees gathered for the premier event, including students from White House Heritage High School, East Robertson High School and Jo Byrns High School.
- During the two-and-a-half day stop, the NAM and MI expect more than 700 students to visit and more than 30,000 email signups by students and career mentors interested in manufacturing careers.
The last word: “To strengthen manufacturing’s competitiveness, we must shift perceptions among, and provide opportunities to, students, parents and educators,” said NAM Executive Vice President Erin Streeter. “This stop in Tennessee will provide them with an introduction to the technologies and careers that are defining the future.”
Deshler, Nebraska, has a population of 747. It has one grocery store and one gas station, and its local high school graduates approximately 18 seniors each spring. It’s also the global headquarters of international irrigation firm Reinke Manufacturing, which employs a large number (about 600) of the town’s residents.
A great job: Working at Reinke has many perks, including generous pay and benefits, but until recently, the company had a hiring challenge to overcome in one specific area: housing.
- “We are so rural that we were having difficulty getting people,” Reinke Manufacturing President Chris Roth said. “We could recruit them easily, but then it was like, ‘Well, where am I going to live?’”
A solution—with an added perk: Around 2012, Roth and other leaders at Reinke came up with a fix: The company would purchase a house for a new employee and rent it to him at a reasonable fee.
- After that, the firm was on a roll. “We started to buy up lots with homes that needed to be torn down, homes that have been vacant for years … and put up something else” in which employees could live, Roth said. The move has “improved the town, too,” he added.
- The first build was a fourplex with efficiency apartments. “There’s a bedroom in the back, a bathroom and a kitchenette. People like those; they’re really nice.”
Expanding a vision: The efficiencies are mostly for single people, however, and Reinke wanted to have options for prospective employees with families, too. So, it began thinking bigger.
- “Our second fourplex was a building with two duplexes,” Roth said. “These are two-bedroom units, and small families live there.”
- Soon the company began purchasing single-family homes, too. It currently rents out seven such houses—all available for sale to the employees.
Even bigger: In early 2021, Reinke made its biggest investment in affordable employee housing yet. It purchased an entire motel in nearby Hebron, Nebraska, and turned it into apartments.
- The building now houses 40 people, some of them families. “It was run down when we bought it, but all brick and had a newish roof, so we were able to save a lot of it,” Roth said.
- In addition, the company recently broke ground in Deshler on a two-story, eight-unit housing complex of two-bedroom apartments that will be ready in spring 2023.
Game changer: Since Reinke got in on the housing game, recruitment and retention of top employees “is easier now,” Roth said. “They’re willing to move because they know we’ll have housing. If you’re going to move several states, you want to know where you are going to live … There really isn’t anything on Apartments.com [in Deshler].”
- Another benefit for Reinke employees has been that their new landlord requires less up-front outlay. “A deposit and first and last months’ rent is a lot, and it can be a problem for a lot of folks,” Roth said. “We don’t necessarily need all that.”
- The program is so popular, Roth said, there’s currently a waiting list for the units.
Other efforts: In addition to employee housing, Reinke is increasing its presence and education efforts at the local schools in a bid to recruit talent sooner.
- The company started an employee-taught welding program at Deshler High School, which allowed the company to develop its own curriculum using American Welding Society Standards.
- “It gives us the opportunity to get in front of kids and teach them skills that we need,” Roth said. Reinke offers a similar program to adults through a cooperative effort at a community college.
- A Reinke-run middle school program helps students learn to use CNC machinery, with which the company manufactures parts. Through another program at the middle school, the company teaches a class on AutoCAD, software that allows users to create detailed two- and three-dimensional drawings, as well as courses on basic electrical and hydraulics skills.
The last word: Worker housing and manufacturing classes for young people will do more than create a top-notch workforce for the company, Roth said.
- “A lot of times kids will graduate and go to Omaha or Lincoln, and they don’t come back,” he said. “This is a way, hopefully, to keep people here in Deshler. They make very good money, have great benefits, so we hope they stay … and keep the town going.”
Washington, D.C. – Following news that White House aides and Cabinet officials spent Tuesday reviewing contingency plans for a work stoppage, including outreach to shippers, truckers and air-freight lines to keep goods moving, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement on the ongoing negotiations between Class I railroads and labor unions representing the freight rail workforce:
“For years now, America’s manufacturing workers have endured the effects of rapidly rising material costs and severe supply chain disruptions, and our member surveys have shown quarter after quarter that these are among the top challenges affecting manufacturing growth in America. Further delays in concluding the rail negotiations will exacerbate the pain of inflation and supply chain disruptions, and failing to reach an agreement before Friday’s deadline would devastate the movement of manufactured products that families depend on,” said Timmons. “The Presidential Emergency Board has announced reasonable recommendations that nearly all parties have accepted, so now is the time to resolve remaining issues. We appreciate the administration’s proactive approach, and Congress should be ready to act as a last resort. But manufacturers still believe that the parties have it within their power to resolve these talks before they inflict severe economic damage.”
Currently, the American freight rail network accounts for nearly 40% of total freight volume, and a strike or delay in finalizing a long-term contract would have devastating impacts across surface supply chain networks and economic output. The Association of American Railroads recently released a report that found a nationwide freight rail interruption could cost more than $2 billion per day in lost economic activity.
Background: On Monday, Sept. 12, the NAM sent a letter to congressional leaders reiterating support for the work of the Presidential Emergency Board, which has aided in the talks. The NAM also urged Congress to use its statutory authority to institute the PEB’s recommendations should it become necessary to intervene. The NAM supported President Biden’s selection of an independent and objective PEB and believes that the recommendations announced on Aug. 16 have provided an appropriate framework to avoid disruption to freight rail operations.
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 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 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.
As Mona Babury tells it, Pfizer’s refugee hiring program was born out of the basic human need to connect during a time of shared anguish.
Wanting to help: Last August, Babury, the pharmaceutical company’s director of global diversity, equity and inclusion, was horrified by news coverage of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and refugees fleeing.
- Babury’s husband had fled Afghanistan for the United States with his family at the age of 5, some 40 years before, so she had a personal connection to the events unfolding.
- She felt an urge to talk to someone who would understand, so she turned to Pfizer Executive Vice President and Chief People Experience Officer Payal Sahni, also a former Afghan refugee. In the course of their conversation, an idea popped into Babury’s head.
Lightbulb moment: “I said, ‘Why don’t we create a refugee hiring program? It will give [refugees] a glimmer of hope when they’re coming here with just the clothes on their backs,’” Babury recalled. “Within minutes, she responded, ‘Go for it.’”
Making it a reality: Pfizer, which had close to 1,000 job openings it was looking to fill, had never created a refugee hiring program before. “We didn’t have a playbook,” Babury said.
- The team decided to research similar initiatives, and in doing so contacted The Tent Partnership for Refugees, a nonprofit organization established by Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya to help businesses hire and train refugees.
- Thanks to Tent’s help, Pfizer’s Refugee Leadership Initiative was launched in mere days, with Babury named as its leader.
- Its goal? Hire a minimum of 100 refugees by the end of 2022 and provide mentorship opportunities to an additional 150—with 50 of these opportunities earmarked for LGBTQ+ refugees.
Following through: In less than a year, the initiative is well on its way to reaching its goal—having hired 68 refugees so far. The enthusiasm from Pfizer’s workforce has been immediate and widespread.
- After sending an email announcing the program globally, “we had 300 colleagues email back [within a few hours] saying they wanted to volunteer, to support us in any way they could,” said Babury.
- At Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, facility, where the initiative has been most successful, “one [team] leader took this very personally,” hiring 18 Afghan refugees since the beginning of 2022, said Babury. In partnership with a local refugee agency, he has also made “a commitment to continue to further ramp up hiring efforts.” (Learn more here.)
Going above and beyond: Pfizer, which now works directly with the not-for-profit humanitarian organizations Tent for Refugees, Welcome.US, the International Rescue Committee and eight other resettlement agencies to source and hire refugees, does more than extend job offers.
- Though the new employees do not require sponsorship to work in the United States, owing to their refugee status, they do need help restarting their lives. Pfizer provides up-front bonuses to help cover the costs of transportation to and from work and to help them obtain driver’s licenses.
A winning formula: Seeking out refugees as employees can be an enormously rewarding sourcing strategy for a manufacturing company, Babury said.
- “The knowledge curve might be a little [steeper], but in the end, there’s so much data that shows refugee hiring pays off immensely,” she said. “They’re very hardworking, loyal and thankful for the opportunity to enter a new workforce.”
A proud moment: “I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in support of this important and impactful initiative,” said Pfizer Chief Global Supply Officer Mike McDermott. Pfizer Global Supply, Pfizer’s manufacturing and supply organization, has hired the most refugees at Pfizer to date.
- “Our smart, talented and dedicated new colleagues are already making a difference. We welcome their fresh perspectives and have been motivated by their pride and passion,” he continued.
- “I’d also like to recognize our PGS colleagues for welcoming these new teammates with open arms, supporting them both professionally and personally,” he added. “Everyone deserves a fresh start, and we consider it an honor and a privilege to play a role in the new chapters for these refugees and their families.”
Success stories: The backgrounds of many of the recent hires are as impressive as they are diverse.
- The very first refugee hire, a man named Afzal Afzali, had been working for the U.S. embassy and the American University of Afghanistan when the Taliban seized control last summer. “He had to make a decision to escape within a few hours of the invasion,” according to Babury. “On his way out, he rescued four unaccompanied children protected by the U.S. government and reunited them with their mother in the United States.”
- Afzali, who now lives with his family in Texas and works at Pfizer in procurement, told the company the new job has led him to finding his “life’s purpose in serving others … likewise, Pfizer is all about breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.”
- Another new employee had previously worked with the Afghan president. She is now a senior associate on Babury’s team. She was recruited through the Pfizer Refugee Leadership Initiative Mentorship program.
The last word: Seeing the success of these new employees energizes those around them, said Babury.
- “The leader at our Kalamazoo site will speak to you with such a light in his eyes about how … once these hires have a job, they don’t consider themselves refugees anymore. They’re people with jobs. They have a way to take care of their families. There is a sense of pride among all our colleagues because of this program.”
Creators Wanted is gearing up for another season of bolstering positive perceptions of manufacturing careers and inspiring new manufacturers. Its schedule for this fall is now set—and we’re sharing it with you.
The nationwide tour, a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner The Manufacturing Institute, with significant legacy funding from Dow, Honda and Trane Technologies as well as contributions from more than 70 manufacturing companies, will stop in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 27–29.
- The tour features an award-winning mobile immersive experience, to help students, emerging workers, parents and other career mentors learn and get excited about opportunities in modern manufacturing.
- Tour stop attendees will also meet local manufacturers, interact with hands-on technology, attend presentations by stars in the industry and access resources for training and job opportunities.
Building on big impact: The MI and Deloitte have already reported that positive perception of manufacturing careers has soared from 27% when the tour started to 40% today, just shy of the goal of 50% by 2025.
- The campaign has amassed—and maintained—an email network of more than 320,000 highly engaged students and career mentors.
Destination Tennessee: The Nashville stop will be the 10th since the tour began last year.
- Hosted by Electrolux and Schneider Electric and co-presented by Robertson County Economic Development, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association and FactoryFix, the stop will take place at White House Heritage High School in the Nashville-adjacent town of White House, Tennessee.
- More than 500 students, parents, teachers and community leaders are slated to attend.
It’s good to be back! From Oct. 4 to 7, as manufacturers nationwide celebrate MFG Day 2022, Nephron Pharmaceuticals will host the second Creators Wanted tour stop this fall, in West Columbia, South Carolina. FactoryFix and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce will also participate.
- The tour visited West Columbia and Nephron last October. This year’s encore visit to the city will take place at the Nephron Nitrile Factory.
- More than 20,000 students and career mentors are expected to sign up online to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
College visit: Next, the tour will visit Decatur, Illinois, on Oct. 24–26, for a stop that will be hosted by Caterpillar and ADM and co-presented by Illinois Manufacturing and FactoryFix.
- The events will be held at Shilling Center at Richland Community College. This third fall tour stop is expected to draw many visitors from the local community and add more than 20,000 students and career mentors to our network in Illinois.
Windy City premiere: The last stop on the Creators Wanted fall tour will be at the Rockwell Automation Fair in Chicago, on Nov. 16-17. The Creators Wanted immersive experience will be a main feature on the showroom floor at this gathering of thousands of industrial automation leaders and experts.
Learn more: Tour organizers say that there is still time to join the fall tour stop events. Interested in supporting the cause and the MI’s sustained workforce solutions? Contact Barret Kedzior at [email protected].
The manufacturing industry has had more than 2.6 million job openings nationally in 2022 already—a workforce shortage that shows little signs of slowing. Meanwhile, half of all those available jobs don’t require a four-year college degree or the debt that goes with it.
This week, President Biden announced new measures providing student debt relief to many eligible Americans. Yet the manufacturing industry helps young people avoid this problem in the first place, while also offering them salaries far above the national average.
Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee weighed in on the advantages available to young people looking to make a strong entry into the workforce, instead of suffering under debt that makes it more difficult to start a family, purchase a first home and achieve other major life milestones. Here’s what she had to say.
How it works: Manufacturers often offer short-term certifications or other training programs that allow people to jump into high-paying careers quickly and without debt, Lee explains.
- “There are multiple pathways to career opportunities in manufacturing through skills training, ranging from short-term programs to more involved skills development and apprenticeship programs,” says Lee.
- For example, the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program (founded by Toyota and operated by the MI) offers current and aspiring manufacturing workers both on-the-job training and classroom education. The program leads to an associate degree and an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.
- Manufacturers work with FAME’s local chapters in part because they allow companies to use a global best system to train the skilled workforce they need to compete.
The numbers: The data show that manufacturing is a good choice for those inclined to avoid debt, Lee points out.
- As noted above, there have been more than 2.6 million manufacturing job openings so far in 2022, but just 47% of those job openings (about 1.2 million) require a bachelor’s degree or greater.
- Meanwhile, manufacturing workers in 2020 earned $92,832 on average (compared to an average of $77,181 for workers in all private nonfarm industries).
What can policymakers do? To ensure that manufacturing training programs continue to expand and succeed, policymakers should make certain changes, says Lee.
- For example, Pell Grants should be usable for high-quality training programs as short as eight weeks—often all that is needed to train a technician.
- Policymakers should also ensure that our education system focuses on skills attainment for career success, and that teachers and other influencers are aware of opportunities offered by pathways other than four-year degree programs.
#CreatorsWanted: The NAM and the MI have taken this message to communities across the country through the Creators Wanted campaign’s tour and mobile experience. Tens of thousands of students, parents, educators and local leaders have attended the tour stops, where they learned about the promise of manufacturing careers and were challenged to think like manufacturers in the interactive mobile experience.
- As Lee told students at the Creators Wanted stop in Freeport, Texas, “Without a steady stream of talented, bright young people … we can’t keep up the good work of continuously making our products. This is not a get-one-job-and-stay-there-for-40-years [situation]. This is a choose-your-own-adventure [career path] with continuing skills and challenges and opportunities and learning along the way.”
The last word: “We understand how oppressive student debt can be, especially when starting out in life,” said Lee. “More people should be able to get a rewarding and well-paying job that doesn’t require massive debt that takes a lifetime to pay off. This is one of the reasons we work so hard to make sure young people know about the variety of options available to them in manufacturing careers; it’s not just for the industry’s benefit, but for theirs as well.”
If you’d like to hear more about careers in manufacturing, come to one of the many MFG Day events happening this October.
Aidan Bleser took to manufacturing early on.
“The concepts of manufacturing were part of my childhood,” says Bleser. “There was a lot of Lego-building, and stuff like that.”
Still, Bleser didn’t get a chance to hone his skills until high school, when he was accepted into a program that offered courses on manufacturing at a local college, St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas. Near the end of his program, his professors at St. Philip’s encouraged him to take the next step by signing up for the FAME program’s local chapter in Alamo.
The program: The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), which was created by Toyota and is now overseen by The Manufacturing Institute, is a career pathway program for current and aspiring manufacturing workers. It provides them with on-the-job training and classroom education, leading to an associate degree and the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.
The experience: Through the program, Bleser was offered a role at Toyota, where he spent two years doing hands-on work while also accruing college credit.
- “FAME was great,” said Bleser. “The two years went by fast, and I enjoyed getting the college credit while still working part time. It helped the learning experience, being able to work while going to school.”
The people: Bleser also enjoyed working with other program participants as part of a group, getting to know individuals who were interested in manufacturing and even advising and mentoring younger students after his time in the program was up.
- “I’ve stayed in touch with people in my cohort, and I have mentored people in the younger cohort,” said Bleser. “That group dynamic is a great opportunity, because you can learn skills yourself and then teach them to other people.”
The job: Bleser graduated in May and was offered a full-time position at Toyota in August. He is now employed as a maintenance officer at Adient, one of Toyota’s on-site suppliers—and credits the FAME program with giving him the tools he needed to be successful.
- “I would recommend FAME to anyone,” said Bleser. “It prepares you really well. By the time you’re hired, you’re not a new face, and you’re used to the culture.”
The road ahead: Bleser’s experiences in the FAME program and at Toyota have shown him that there are opportunities available in manufacturing for people with all sorts of different talents and interests. He has big plans for the future:
- “I’d like to look into system integration, maybe opening some sort of company myself one day,” said Bleser. “I’ve also gotten more into application development on the software side, so I’d like to continue doing that, and hopefully develop some software that can be used throughout manufacturing.”
The last word: “There are so many ways to work in manufacturing,” said Bleser. “From maintenance, to quality, to logistics, to management, there are a lot of different places you could find yourself. Anybody with any skill set could be valued.”