Manufacturers do the jobs of the future. That’s why we train our employees to take on new challenges and why we need motivated, exceptional workers to start careers in modern manufacturing. To advance that goal industry-wide, we support innovative policy and on-the-ground programs to attract, train and retain the next generation workforce.

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A FAME Graduate Finds a Fresh Start

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When Kristy Willis moved to Louisiana, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. Her 15-year marriage had ended in divorce, and she needed to find a way to support herself and her four children. She began by searching for a college where she could gain additional education and skills—and when she came across The Manufacturing Institute’s FAME program, she knew she had found the right place. In August 2019, she began her fresh start with GeauxFAME.

What it is: The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), which was founded by Toyota and is now operated 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 an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.

A critical role: Willis viewed manufacturing as a vital part of the American economy, and was excited about the opportunity to feel connected to it.

  • “When I came into this program, I didn’t know anything about the manufacturing business—but I wanted to be a part of it,” said Willis. “I saw manufacturing as adding strength to the economy in the United States. Wherever you go, manufacturing is needed, and I wanted to be a part of that industry.”

Personal and professional growth: Willis was wary about returning to school after 10 years, but she was motivated by the need to provide for her children. Ultimately, spending time in the FAME program has changed the way Willis sees herself and her opportunities.

  • “The experience has been humbling,” said Willis. “But it has helped build my confidence in myself and given me something to look forward to.”

Of course, Willis had to contend with a particularly challenging year as COVID-19 made traditional learning environments impossible. Still, she found the program and her experience rewarding.

  • “The past year has been crazy,” said Willis. “Being a mom of four kids, when they got sent home from school, and I got sent home from school, and everyone was trying to study at the same time—our house was wild. But we grew as a family during all of this, through all these trials.”

Next up: Willis will graduate in July, and her sponsoring employer, Boise Cascade—an Idaho-based wood product manufacturer with a facility in Lena, Louisiana—has already offered her a full-time job and the opportunity to continue her education and pursue her bachelor’s degree. She’s excited about the road ahead.

Good advice: Willis also encourages people who are looking for a new career to give the FAME program a try—even if they have never considered a career in manufacturing before.

  • “This program is perfect for that mindset,” said Willis. “If you want to try it out and see how it works, it gives you that opportunity. You get a big picture of the manufacturing process, as well as insights behind standard operating procedures—why these safety practices are performed, or why those machines are serviced the way they are—and then it’s up to you to continue on through the program.”

The last word: “If you’re questioning what to do with your life, stay strong and have courage,” said Willis. “You are strong and smart enough—you take those trials that have brought you down in this life, and use them to make yourself stronger.”

Press Releases

MI and NAM Honor Manufacturing Leader

Emily Stover DeRocco Put Public Focus on Manufacturing’s Critical Workforce Issues

Washington, D.C. – The Manufacturing Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers released a statement on the passing of Emily Stover DeRocco, former President of The Manufacturing Institute:

“Our industry has lost a true leader on workforce development,” said Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “Under her leadership, the Institute developed a national portal of industry-recognized Manufacturing Skills Certifications that have influenced today’s secondary and post-secondary education efforts in 36 states. Emily’s efforts helped put a spotlight on the changing workforce needs in manufacturing and the policies needed to meet these greatest challenges. As we remember and honor her many contributions, our thoughts and prayers are with the DeRocco family.”

“Emily was a true champion to our nation’s workforce and was passionate about manufacturing,” said NAM President and CEO and Chair of the MI Board of Directors Jay Timmons. “She served former President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao as well as many other political leaders on workforce development initiatives where her voice and leadership helped usher in a renewed focus in this country on matching education programs with the skills needed to build the modern manufacturing workforce. Although Emily will be sorely missed, there is much to celebrate in the life she lived and the example she set. She is an inspiration to us and to the Manufacturing Institute and manufacturing community which she was proud to serve.”


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 12.3 million men and women, contributes $2.35 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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


A Tour of Manufacturers’ Vaccine Clinics

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What does it look like when manufacturers get vaccinated? For some people across the country, it was just another day at work.

Hundreds of manufacturers nationwide have hosted vaccination events for their own employees, sometimes including family and community members as well. NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer stopped by a few of these events to capture them, while other companies sent the NAM their own pictures. Here are some of those photos—a visual tour of manufacturers’ efforts to keep America safe and healthy.

Calvert, Alabama: Steel and mining company ArcelorMittal held an on-site vaccine clinic at its plant for team members and the local community. If you look closely, you’ll see that one of these employees is holding a pin from the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s Yellow and Red Ribbon initiative—a symbol of vaccination that you can wear to show you’ve done your part.

Fremont, California: Below, an employee of ALOM Technologies Corporation, which creates supply chain technology and solutions, gets his shot at the company’s facility. In the background, you can see a poster for This Is Our Shot, the NAM and MI’s effort to help manufacturers across the country get vaccinated.

Perryville, Missouri: More than 150 Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation employees were vaccinated at an on-site clinic set up at the company’s request by the local Perry County Health Department.

In our interview with Gilster-Mary Lee President and CEO Tom Welge back in April, he told us how the tragic death of his father (and former Gilster-Mary Lee CEO) Don Welge from COVID-19 reinforced the company’s commitment to vaccinations. Read more about the company’s efforts here.

Baltimore, Maryland: Marlin Steel Wire Products led a coalition of 81 manufacturing companies in an effort to get vaccine doses for their workers. In the end, the coalition organized 17 events for more than 3,300 employees.

Here’s a photo from a March event for workers from Marlin Steel, Orlando Products and Arnold Packaging. It was hosted at Orlando’s facility, where a team from Safeway administered the shots.

We spoke to Marlin President and Owner Drew Greenblatt back in April about how he organized this effort. Check out the interview here.

 Lafayette, Indiana: At Subaru of Indiana, more than 2,900 vaccinations were delivered across eight clinics held in the facility’s lobby. The clinic was open to all on-site personnel, including vendor and contractor representatives, along with associates’ spouses and eligible kids. Recently, the company transitioned to hosting a weekly vaccine clinic at its on-site Health and Wellness Center.

Join in: If you’re a manufacturer looking to encourage vaccinations among your employees or even host an event yourself, check out the many resources available through the NAM and the MI’s This Is Our Shot project. The most recent addition is an “on-site vaccination clinic toolkit” provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. And don’t forget to wear your yellow and red ribbon pin!


Manufacturing Leaders Get a Sneak Peek at Creators Wanted

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CW tour graphic


The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute unveiled their Creators Wanted experience last week in Dallas, previewing it for the NAM’s Executive Committee as well as local business leaders, workforce development officials and the media. Visitors got an exclusive look at this “mobile manufacturing experience” that will soon embark on a tour around the country, showing Americans what modern manufacturing is all about.

As NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said, “Creators Wanted will help a new generation of emerging and displaced workers see themselves in a modern manufacturing career, while also adding to the industry’s talent pipeline by engaging veterans, women and communities of color, all critical to expanding the workforce of tomorrow.”

What they saw: Below, ExxonMobil Senior Vice President Neil Chapman, Celanese Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Lori Ryerkerk, Toyota Executive Vice President of Product Support and Chief Quality Officer Chris Nielsen and Trane Technologies Chairman and CEO (and NAM Board chair and co-chair of the Creators Wanted campaign) Mike Lamach get a first look at this interactive, hands-on experience.

An online choose-your-own-adventure version of the mobile experience will be rolling out this summer to reach students, parental figures, teachers and emerging workers nationwide. Here, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee previews the “Keys to Success” room, where participants will race to solve riddles that will help reinforce key attributes of manufacturing careers, such as teamwork, problem solving, imagination and communication.

Lee also gave a presentation on Creators Wanted to the visitors. As she said in a statement, “By 2030, manufacturers need to fill more than 4 million jobs—according to research from the MI and Deloitte—but without initiatives like Creators Wanted, more than half of those jobs could go unfilled. This mobile experience will excite audiences across the country, sparking an interest in modern manufacturing so that we can connect emerging and displaced workers with resources that educate and empower.”

The tour allows you to experience the creativity of manufacturing firsthand and up close. In the gamified experience, participants will work as a team to solve a series of immersive challenges, requiring their full attention to think and compete. As they move through each obstacle, teams will learn more about modern manufacturing careers, the skills required to be successful and how people and technology work together.

We can’t reveal all the surprises, but doesn’t he look excited?

In fact, all of the NAM’s Executive Committee members who toured the exhibition were impressed and amazed by what they saw. Here are some of their reactions:

  • “I will admit, I didn’t quite appreciate the opportunity for our industry until I saw the experience in person,” said Chapman. “Seeing is believing in the capacity of this tool to excite the next generation, parents, guardians and teachers about modern manufacturing careers.”
  • “It’s clear that Creators Wanted has exactly the message and tools to strengthen our industry’s recruitment for talent. At a time when so many young people seek careers where creativity is valued and prized, we have a chance with this campaign to really drive the best and brightest into our talent pipeline,” said Nielsen.
  • “The mobile experience is astounding; it’s unlike anything we’ve done as an industry to reach the next generation and engage emerging and displaced workers. But what makes this campaign worthwhile is that the mobile experience is just one part of a comprehensive plan to create interest and then create opportunity by providing resources to help people launch or grow a career in manufacturing,” said Lamach.

Join in: Last but not least, you too can find out what all the excitement is about. Check out for information about the campaign.


An Army Vet Finds Military Values in Manufacturing

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Hugo Hinojosa loved being in the military. He served 22 years in the U.S. Army, with time in eight different duty stations. His service gave him the opportunity to get a degree, travel the world, see different places and forge close-knit friendships that he says will last a lifetime. When it came time for him to transition out of the military, he was open to ideas—and during a career skills program briefing at Fort Hood’s Copeland Center, a presentation from Heroes MAKE America captured his attention.

Endless opportunities: After a career spent moving around the globe, Hinojosa was hoping to stay in his home state of Texas for the long term. During the presentation from a representative of Heroes MAKE America, he was struck by the breadth of roles the manufacturing industry offered.

  • “When they came out and told me about opportunities and other jobs in the surrounding area, I said, wow, this might be for me,” said Hinojosa. “With the certifications the program offered, you could work anywhere in the industry. I wasn’t limiting myself to a certain, specific job. I could work anywhere, you name it. The opportunities are endless.”

A unique experience: Hinojosa began his time in the program in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant that some elements had to be adjusted to fit the logistical reality. But participants still received plenty of engagement: classroom lessons were shifted to a virtual format, and students met with program managers two at a time for a few hours every week. While it required a fair amount of self-direction and motivation, Hinojosa said that the program supported him as he learned at his own pace.

A powerful network: Hinojosa found the networking aspect of the program to be especially valuable once he began looking for work.

  • “Every time we would have potential employers in team meetings, I would search them on LinkedIn and connect with them,” said Hinojosa. “I said, I saw you today during class, I’d like to connect. I started building my own network from there.”

The right stuff: The work paid off. Hinojosa received several offers and ended up getting hired by WestRock Company through meetings that were set up by Heroes MAKE America. He began as a member of the company’s management trainee program and was quickly recruited to work as a business partner in the human resources department. He sees his new career as a natural extension of his time as a service member.

  • “Everywhere I go, I’m a steward of the Army,” said Hinojosa. “I’m working in a place where the values are in line with what I was brought up with in the military—integrity, respect, accountability and excellence.”

Today, Hinojosa encourages other transitioning service members to see themselves in a manufacturing career—and most importantly, to recognize their own skills.

The last word: “Don’t sell yourself short,” said Hinojosa. “Believe in the skills the military has given you. You’ve been trained and given skills that will pay dividends out here in the manufacturing industry. And the work ethic that’s instilled from day one is going to show.”


Second Chance Hiring Strengthens Manufacturing

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Helping people with criminal records find good jobs is not just the right thing to do, but a way to strengthen the manufacturing industry for years to come. That’s why The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—is partnering with Stand Together and the Charles Koch Institute to help manufacturers recruit from this population and fill some of the thousands of job openings within the industry.

Brianna Nuhfer, director of criminal justice for the Stand Together philanthropic community, spoke to us recently about the importance of second chance hiring and the opportunities it offers for manufacturers.

Why it matters: A criminal record is often a significant barrier to employment, preventing people from finding new jobs and building better lives. Not all people with criminal records have been incarcerated, but for those who have been, second chance hiring also significantly increases the success of reentry.

  • “The vast majority of incarcerated individuals—over 95% of people who are incarcerated—will be returning to our communities and our neighborhoods,” Nuhfer says. “We want to make sure that their return is as successful as possible, and we know that employment is one of the primary factors that helps people get back on track and avoid recidivism or returning to prison.”

Why it matters for manufacturers: Hiring Americans with criminal records is also important for the success of the manufacturing industry. Right now, manufacturers are facing a significant shortage of skilled workers; in fact, a recent study by Deloitte and the MI suggests that the skills gap could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. Manufacturers need workforce-ready employees, and many people with criminal records fit the bill.

Building a smart workforce: According to Nuhfer, research shows that workers with criminal records often have the lowest turnover rates of all employees. She cites several other key advantages:

  • 82% of managers report that the value these workers bring to companies is just as high as—if not higher than—the value that their employees without criminal records provide.
  • Many formerly incarcerated people received manufacturing-related training while they were in correctional facilities, preparing them for work in the modern industry.

Building partnerships: The partnership with the MI will increase awareness of second chance hiring opportunities and help manufacturers recruit, train and support these workers.

  • “The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute have such an incredible reach across the country, and their leadership is undeniable,” said Nuhfer. “The resources you put out for the field are utilized and noticed—and so your involvement and your commitment to this issue is going to have an incredible ripple effect across the country, opening up thousands of employment opportunities for deserving individuals.”

Creating a culture: For company leaders interested in second chance hiring, Nuhfer has some simple advice: these hiring practices shouldn’t just be a matter of policy, but also a matter of culture. Leaders should demonstrate by example that their companies value smart, talented workers of all backgrounds.

The MI says: “Second chance hiring gives businesses an opportunity to welcome highly motivated, engaged, productive and loyal new team members who may otherwise be overlooked,” said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “This is not only the right thing to do for our businesses, but it’s also the right thing to strengthen our communities.”

The last word: “All of us are more than our choices, good or bad,” said Nuhfer. “None of us wants to be defined by the worst decision we’ve ever made for the rest of our lives.”

To learn more about second chance hiring, register here for an upcoming webinar on June 10.


The Manufacturing Institute Goes to Capitol Hill

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American flag waving in front of Capitol Hill

Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee testified virtually before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity yesterday, detailing the MI’s work with transitioning service members during the pandemic. Here are some highlights from her testimony.

COVID-19’s impact: According to Lee, the COVID-19 pandemic made it much more difficult for transitioning service members to access key resources, including training programs, fellowships and internships.

Our work: The MI’s Heroes MAKE America initiative helped develop workarounds for these challenges, Lee testified.

  • “At the onset of the pandemic, we collaborated with our education partners to pivot most of our program delivery to virtual platforms or socially distanced environments—within a matter of weeks,” she said. “COVID-19 also accelerated the deployment of fully remote learning for Heroes participants, proving that we can deliver some certifications online.”
  • Lee also highlighted the launch of Heroes Connect, which allowed transitioning service members to network virtually with hiring managers from manufacturers across the country.

Heroes’ overall success: The Heroes program has been very successful since its creation only three years ago, Lee noted. “Since its inception in January 2018, Heroes MAKE America has had a placement rate of 92%. Participants have found jobs at more than 250 companies in 39 states.”

  • She added, “Notably, 55% of our participants have no post-secondary education, indicating a strong need for support to position them for success in a career after their time in uniform.”

What policymakers can do: Lastly, Lee recommended policy changes that could make military transitions more accessible to service members and their families.

  • First, “Congress should change eligibility requirements for Pell grants to allow students to pursue high-quality programs as short as eight weeks.”
  • In addition, Lee recommended a separate allocation of funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for the military community. While those funds are currently given directly to states, which place limits on their use, service members may participate in training virtually or in a different location than where they transition. They need the flexibility to receive training or plan careers without worrying about state lines.

The last word: “Veterans are well positioned to succeed in a manufacturing career with skills, talents and training that are highly valued in the industry,” said Lee. “And with more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs open today—and 4 million to fill by 2030—they are in great demand. The Manufacturing Institute is committed to helping today’s American heroes become tomorrow’s manufacturing leaders.”


MLC Honors Manufacturing Leaders

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During a year of extraordinary disruptions and challenges, manufacturers stepped up in extraordinary ways. That’s the message of this year’s Manufacturing Leadership Awards, taking place on May 19 and hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council—a business leadership network dedicated to senior manufacturing executives and aimed at supporting companies through the industry’s digital transformation.

What they are: The Manufacturing Leadership Awards are presented to world-class manufacturing companies and individual leaders in a range of categories, from Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Analytics Leadership to Collaborative Innovation Leadership to Sustainability Leadership. The online gala will recognize exciting and innovative manufacturers who excelled in these areas and will feature a virtual after-party with entertainment for guests.

Among the winners: Here are a few examples of this year’s winning projects.

  • A pharmaceutical company partnered with another company to scale up the production of a COVID-19 treatment. As a result of their collaboration, a production transfer that would normally take 12 months was completed in just 123 days.
  • An automaker developed a technology center dedicated to making 3D printing a mass-scale production reality for their plants around the world. It is developing new products faster than ever and improving its assembly operations.
  • A technology manufacturer implemented AI and edge computing in its inspection process, reducing inspection times from 10 minutes to less than one minute while significantly improving inspection accuracy.

New and of note: One new element of this year’s celebration is the Creators Respond Honor Roll. So many manufacturers went above and beyond in responding to the global pandemic that the MLC decided to recognize their achievements in a separate category.

Still to come: Several honorees won’t be announced publicly until the gala itself, including the High Achievers, Manufacturers of the Year and Manufacturing Leaders of the Year—so be sure to tune in on May 19.

The word from the MLC: “Tested with challenges they never could have imagined, manufacturers rose to the occasion to keep factories open, sometimes with significant changes to their production and supply chains,” said Manufacturing Leadership Council Co-Founder, Executive Director and Vice President David R. Brousell. “At the same time, manufacturers doubled down on digital transformation as they sought greater agility and flexibility in their businesses. These awards honor the innovation and resolve that manufacturers demonstrate at all times, and especially in times of crisis.”

You can RSVP for the event here.


2.1 Million Manufacturing Jobs Could Go Unfilled by 2030

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The manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, according to a new study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM. The cost of those missing jobs could potentially total $1 trillion in 2030 alone.

The study’s dramatic findings come from online surveys of more than 800 U.S.-based manufacturing leaders, as well as interviews with executives across the industry and economic analyses. All told, they paint a worrying picture of manufacturing’s labor shortage. The lack of skilled labor was the industry’s major challenge even before the pandemic, according to the NAM’s quarterly outlook surveys—and this new study shows it’s still a major concern today.

The hard data: About 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost during the early days of the pandemic, according to the study, setting back the manufacturing labor force by more than a decade. However, the industry has largely recovered those lost jobs and is now urgently seeking more workers.

  • While the manufacturing industry recouped 63% of jobs lost during the pandemic, the remaining 570,000 had not been added back by the end of 2020, despite a near record number of job openings in the sector.

The inside scoop: Manufacturers surveyed reported that finding the right talent is now 36% harder than it was in 2018, even though the unemployment rate has nearly doubled the supply of available workers.

  • Executives reported they cannot even fill higher paying entry-level production positions, let alone find and retain skilled workers for specialized roles.
  • A long-term challenge: 77% of manufacturers say they will have ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in 2021 and beyond.

A bright spot: Fortunately, the study found that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives exert a growing influence on workforce trends and can help manufacturers fill these empty jobs. Manufacturers have more work to do to attract larger numbers of women and diverse workers to the industry, and the Institute is leading an industry-wide effort to close the opportunity gap.

Deloitte says: “Given the foundational role the manufacturing sector plays in our nation’s economy, it is deeply concerning that at a time when jobs are in such high demand nationwide, the number of vacant entry-level manufacturing positions continues to grow,” said Paul Wellener, Deloitte vice chairman and U.S. industrial products and construction leader. “Attracting and retaining diverse talent presents both a challenge and solution to bridging the talent gap. To attract a new generation of workers, the industry should work together to change the perception of work in manufacturing and expand and diversify its talent pipeline.”

The Institute says: “Manufacturers are proud to lead efforts to build stronger, more diverse and inclusive workplaces because we are committed to being the solution,” said Carolyn Lee, executive director of the Institute. “As we expand our programs at The Manufacturing Institute, and work with the National Association of Manufacturers on initiatives like our Creators Wanted campaign and tour, we’re making sure that Americans of all backgrounds in all states can find a home in manufacturing and get equipped with the skills to seize these opportunities.”


Manufacturing Institute Takes on Second Chance Hiring

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The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—is partnering with the Charles Koch Institute to expand second chance hiring opportunities in the manufacturing industry.

What is second chance hiring? One in three Americans possess a criminal record. Without being offered a “second chance” at a stable job, many in this sizable talent pool are excluded from the workforce.   

Why it matters: The manufacturing industry has more than half a million jobs open right now and will need to fill 4 million over the next decade. Second chance programs not only increase equal opportunity and diversity in the industry but are also a key tool for building manufacturing’s future workforce.

What we’re doing about it: The MI’s initiative, funded by a grant from the Charles Koch Institute, will offer resources and expertise to help employers make the best use of second chance hiring. These resources will include roundtable discussions and webinars, C-suite leadership events, case studies, a pilot program and original research for the manufacturing industry.

The MI says: “Second chance hiring gives businesses an opportunity to welcome highly motivated, engaged, productive and loyal new team members that may otherwise be overlooked,” said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “This is not only the right thing to do for our businesses, but it’s also the right thing to strengthen our communities.”

  • “This partnership enables the MI to educate manufacturers in America on second chance hiring best practices and help them utilize second chance hiring as a strategy to fill open jobs. This effort will also expand our Diversity and Inclusion initiative that’s critical to the future health and success of the industry.”

A real-world example: Nehemiah Manufacturing Co., a consumer-product manufacturer in Cincinnati, has a workforce of about 180 employees—about 80% of whom have criminal records, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). These employees serve in all sorts of positions, including leadership roles, from production to fulfillment and more.

  • “We found that the population we were hiring who had criminal backgrounds were our most loyal people,” Nehemiah President Richard Palmer told the Journal. “When we were looking for people to work overtime, come in on Saturday or go that extra mile, it was the second-chance population that was saying, ‘I’m in.’”

The last word: “One of the biggest barriers to successful reentry for those with a record is lack of employment opportunities,” said CKI Executive Director Derek Johnson. “If we truly want to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, all while empowering those returning to our communities to contribute at their fullest potential, we need to expand second chance hiring opportunities. CKI is proud to join this partnership to scale that impact and expand second chance hiring across more employers.”

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