Workforce

A Helicopter Mechanic’s Manufacturing Career Takes Off

Get the Latest News

Get involved

Marsalis Leonard didn’t grow up in a gearhead family, but from the beginning of his eight years as a helicopter mechanic in the U.S. Army, he was immersed in a world of skills he would never have anticipated seeking out on his own.

  • “The Army was my introduction to mechanics,” said Leonard. “It taught me how different machines and processes work together, but it also taught me how to grasp hands-on knowledge and put it to use.”

A new career: That kind of experience served Leonard well when he transitioned out of the army in 2020. He had considered working in civilian aviation, but the process would have required additional education and a range of specific certificates. For Leonard, more school wasn’t a priority—and when he learned about the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get started in a new field by putting his existing capabilities to use.

  • “I wanted to jump into something with the skills I already had,” said Leonard. “Heroes MAKE America seemed like a great place to enhance my skills and turn them into a new career.”

An immersive program: 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 trainings and remote training options, as well as career support and placement. So far, the program has a 90% placement rate with graduates in 42 states across the country.

A learning opportunity: While Leonard brought plenty of his own experience to the table, Heroes MAKE America still offered valuable information and practical training in industrial maintenance that he continues to use today.

  • “It was very enlightening,” said Leonard. “Heroes gave you an education in basic electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics and mechanics. It taught you to read schematics and diagrams, which was probably the first thing I was able to grasp. It was very hands-on.”

A new path: Through his experience in Heroes, Leonard was hired as a maintenance technician at a Waxahachie, Texas, facility owned by Georgia-Pacific—a pulp and paper manufacturer based in Atlanta, Georgia. While the role may be different from his experience in the military, the Heroes program prepared him to take on his new challenges.

  • “I learned an insane amount,” said Leonard. “At first, it seemed overwhelming the amount I didn’t know. But I also was able to see people who have been in the industry for years—and they started out as kids with no experience. So, you work hard, pay attention, ask questions and learn from your mistakes. You’ll learn something—and you’ll use that knowledge.”

Get involved: Want to support Heroes MAKE America? Click here to learn more.

Workforce

ABB Apprentices Join the Next Generation of Manufacturers

Get the Latest News

Get involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workforce

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

Get the Latest News

Get involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workforce

A Union Pacific Executive Gets Career on Track

Get the Latest News

Get involved

Benita Gibson didn’t set out to join the rail industry, but after 15 years at Union Pacific Railroad and 30 years in management across three different industries, she serves as Union Pacific’s general superintendent for commuter operations in Chicago—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

A big job: Gibson oversees Union Pacific’s North, Northwest and West Metra Lines. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the route carried 194 trains and 100,000 passengers every weekday. While the pandemic has disrupted some passenger rail travel, Gibson continued her focus on making the system work flawlessly, supervising everyone from engineers and conductors, to locomotive and car shops, to ticket agents and Maintenance of Way employees to ensure safe and efficient operations.

A pioneering leader: Gibson is the first Black female operating executive in Union Pacific’s history, but she hopes that the doors she opened will encourage more women and, specifically, more women of color to join her.

  • “When I started, you really had to stand your ground and let people know you were part of the team,” said Gibson. “I really just want to be treated equally. My main focus was, I wanted to be able to do what was expected of anyone to do, not just a male or female.”

Opportunity for all: Gibson encourages other women to look for roles in the transportation sector, emphasizing the breadth of opportunities that are available for people interested in being a part of a large and growing industry.

  • “We have everything within this company,” said Gibson. “We have marketing and sales, real estate and law, accounting and logistics. People don’t realize all the opportunities there are within a railroad. Every job and career type that’s out there is right here at Union Pacific.”

Now hiring: Union Pacific is also interested in promoting opportunities for women who might not have thought about a career in rail previously—and they’ve got big plans to do it. Through a $3 million, three-year partnership with The Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s workforce development and education partner—Union Pacific intends to double the number of women in its workforce within the next 10 years. The initiative that works in tandem with Creators Wanted is called Careers on Track and is designed to inspire more women and youth to pursue modern industry careers through workforce development and career solutions. It includes:

  • A digital STEM curriculum;
  • A virtual STEM experience allowing participants to explore interactive 3D models of facilities and locomotives;
  • A STEM micro-grant program for young people; and
  • A digital campaign that demystifies career opportunities for underserved women.

The last word: “Being a young female getting into this career is exciting,” said Gibson. “It offers great pay, great camaraderie and the chance to learn a lot. You have an opportunity to see a lot of different places within the 23 states where we operate. Our motto is ‘Building America,’ and that’s exactly what you get to do.”

Workforce

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

Get the Latest News

Get involved

What was the collective mood at the premier event of Creators Wanted Tour Live’s fifth stop? Upbeat and excited. In Dallas/Fort Worth Tuesday, before racing to the future in the Creators Wanted mobile experience, students from Tarrant County College and local high schools heard from leaders in education and manufacturing about the industry’s many exciting career opportunities.

Upward mobility: “You’ll never be bored working in manufacturing, I can assure you that,” said NAM Senior Vice President of Communications and Brand Strategy Erin Streeter. “A career in manufacturing will grow with you over time, so you may start as a welder and end up as a CEO.”

  • Indeed, there is no shortage of manufacturing jobs; only a shortage of people to fill them, Tarrant County College Chancellor Eugene Giovannini said at the kickoff. “Why is this happening now?” he asked, referring to the Creators Wanted tour, a joint project of the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute. “Millions of jobs [are] going unfilled because of not having people skilled to do [manufacturing] jobs.”
  • In fact, the U.S. will need 4 million manufacturing positions over the next decade, Giovannini said, referencing a figure from a joint MI–Deloitte study. “It’s folks like Creators Wanted … that make you prepared” for those jobs.

Opportunity abounds: “The students here in front of me … are graduating here in North Texas at an ideal time,” said Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner, who presides over a school district of more than 70,000 students. He also said that the demand for technical and certification programs at Fort Worth schools has increased significantly each year in recent years. Scribner indicated that more than 1,000 students would join Creators Wanted in Fort Worth.

  • Aicha Davis of the Texas State Board of Education echoed this sentiment. “One of our most important duties is to make sure that you have what you need to be successful when you graduate,” she told the audience at the kickoff. “And we listen to different industries … one of the number-one demands is for manufacturing … because we have so many different items that we ship in and out of Texas.”

A re-envisioned future: Manufacturing gives those who work in the sector the chance to discover themselves and their callings, the speakers at the premier event told the many students, teachers and parents in attendance.

  • Jessie Kessler, site leader of the Northlake Distribution Center Site for Stanley Black & Decker, a Creators Wanted Innovator sponsor, told the audience she started at SB&D 22 years ago “answering phones … as a temp” and never dreamed it would lead to a career with the company. “The [number] of opportunities that are in the manufacturing sector opened up the world to me. … There’s definitely opportunity to grow and to learn and to move up. You’re not stuck at one job forever when you step into a manufacturing facility.”
  • Cornerstone Building Brands Supply Chain Senior Vice President Brigette Gage, who spoke at the event, told the crowd that her career goals have come a long way since she got her start in the workforce. “I started as an engineer; I wanted to design roller coasters,” Gage said with a laugh. “But I found out that … actually making something was certainly a lot more fun” than designing it, “and it’s where I found my niche in my career. … At Cornerstone, we absolutely recognize the importance of making sure we’re continually evolving.” Cornerstone Building Brands is a Leader sponsor of the tour.

Responding to the call: Before tours of the Creators Wanted mobile experience and its popular escape-room challenges, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee wrapped up the kickoff event by reiterating the need for skilled people in manufacturing.

  • There are 900,000 open jobs in manufacturing today, Lee said. By 2030, that number could grow to 2.1 million, and those unfilled jobs “will harm our communities. … You can be part of that next wave of creators. Regardless of your interest, there’s a place for you.”

For quick video highlights of the premier event, click here.

Workforce

Making a Difference: Creators Wanted Visits Charlotte

Get the Latest News

Get involved

Creators Wanted is having a moment. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the fourth stop of the mobile experience’s five-city expedition around the U.S., the Creators Wanted Tour Live continued to generate big excitement about manufacturing and the career opportunities the industry offers.

“I’m only 22 and I bought a house, a boat and a dirt bike,” said Ketchie Inc. Lathe Department Lead Machinist Zach Whitley, during a nationally aired live Creators Wanted Spotlight conversation with students from East Mecklenburg and Hopewell high schools. “Manufacturing is what has enabled me to have this lifestyle.”

Makers needed—and rewarded: The spotlight event was part of the four-day stay of the mobile experience at Central Piedmont Community College presented by Trane Technologies. The tour, a project of the NAM and its workforce development partner, The Manufacturing Institute, seeks to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturers—and recruit at least 600,000 new workers to address the manufacturing talent shortage, which is estimated to leave more than 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030, according to Deloitte and the MI.

Its message seems to be getting out.

  • “I had never heard of manufacturing before” today, Anson High School sophomore Janita Willoughby told Charlotte Channel 9 WSOC-TV reporter Susanna Black. But as it turns out, in a manufacturing career “you’re making a lot of money and you’re doing stuff you like, so that’s a good thing,” she said.

Goings-on galore: In addition to the spotlight event, the student- and job seeker-focused happenings in Charlotte were many and varied. They included:

  • A kick-off event featuring talks from speakers including North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Creators Wanted Legacy Sponsor Trane Technologies’ Mike Lamach, NAM Board Chair and Trane’s executive chair, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston; Community College Chief Academic Officer Heather Hill; MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee; and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons
  • A manufacturing fair with local manufacturers and education partners, highlighting local career opportunities and pathway programs, certifications and degrees for those interested in manufacturing
  • Tours by local high school students of the escape room-like Creators Wanted experience
  • Q&A sessions in which students had the opportunity to discuss the manufacturing industry and its jobs with real manufacturers

“Something that excites you”: “There’s a common misconception that manufacturing is boring,” Lamach told an audience of students at the Charlotte kick-off event. “What I love about this Creators Wanted tour is how it pulls you [toward] the many different possibilities in manufacturing. There are many different kinds of opportunities to learn and grow, and all kinds of ways to make a difference. I hope you’ll find something that excites you.”

  • The Charlotte stop hosted more than 450 students from West Mecklenburg High School, Anson High School, South & West Stanley High Schools, Floyd Johnson Technology Center, East Mecklenburg High School, Hopewell High School, Myers Park High School, Rowan-Salisbury High School, Harding University High School, the Epiphany School of Charlotte and CPCC, generating approximately 68,000 email signups.

Highlights: Video and photos show some of the fun and learning that took place last week.

A Trane Technologies team member talks to student attendees at a Creators Wanted event.

Local high school students and teachers proudly display their escape room times.

The race to the gateway to the future was on in Honda’s “Sum of All Parts” challenge, where these students made the correct choice as to what product this team of Honda associates is creating.

Students had fun working with DJ Enferno to make their own Creators Wanted music anthems, putting more of the creativity central to manufacturing to work.

The tour in Charlotte brought manufacturing’s promise to students with differing abilities. Teachers reacted positively to the impact of the experience.

Lamach, whose leadership on Creators Wanted helped get the campaign off the ground, took the stage to emphasize what the tour is all about: students.

The response: Creators Wanted earned notice from some well-known names, both in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Media mentions: In addition to WSOC-TV, broadcast and online news outlets including the Charlotte Business Journal, WCCB Charlotte and Business North Carolina also covered the Creators Wanted Charlotte stop.

The final say: “You can’t create the future unless you’re engaging the future,” said Chrys Kefalas, chief strategist of the tour and vice president of brand strategy at the NAM. “Students came to us not thinking about manufacturing as a career and left aspiring to careers in the industry. Resumes were handed to manufacturers. We’re creating lasting memories that won’t just result in new workers but [will] also change lives.”

Workforce

‘Manufacturing Opportunity Awaits’: Creators Wanted Arrives in Charlotte

Get the Latest News

Get involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workforce

Interactive Experience Meets Job Coaching: Creators Wanted in Iowa

Get the Latest News

Get involved

Part hands-on science and technology experience, part TED Talk, part career coaching—that might be the best way to describe the Pella, Iowa, stop of Creators Wanted Tour Live, which wrapped last week.

Pella was the third stop on the mobile experience’s expedition around the country, following Columbus, Ohio, and West Columbia, South Carolina. The objective of Creators Wanted, a brainchild of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, is to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of manufacturers. It aims to help fill the more than 4 million open positions expected in the industry between now and 2030, a number forecast by Deloitte and the MI.

A rewarding field: Manufacturing “is a field that has always rewarded technical skills, hard work and an innovative imagination that refuses to settle for business as usual,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who spoke at the tour stop’s kickoff event, told the audience of local high school students, teachers and media members. “Too many young people simply don’t know about” the many opportunities in manufacturing, she pointed out.

Much to see and do: The events of the three-day stop included:

  • Speeches from Gov. Reynolds, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee, Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa (the host of the Pella tour stop), Pella Corporation President and CEO Tim Yaggi and Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston;
  • Mobile experience tours, where attendees got to solve escape room–like challenges and manufacturing-related puzzles;
  • A panel with representatives from Vermeer Corporation and Pella Corporation who highlighted the exciting, well-paying jobs available in manufacturing;
  • A softball toss/window-strength test in which participants threw balls at a window made by Pella Corporation; and
  • Manufacturing demonstrations and other hands-on opportunities for visiting local middle- and high-school students.

‘Making our world a better place’: “You’re going to see for yourself how manufacturers like Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation and thousands of others across the country are making our world a better place,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told the crowd at the premier Pella event. “We’re here at Pella today because…we want you to be a part of the manufacturing workforce.”

Impact: The tour stop reached more than 500 students and generated approximately 25,000 email sign-ups.

Some of the fun: Photos and videos from the three days show some of the educational and entertaining activities on offer:

A Pella Middle School student tours the mobile experience at Vermeer Corporation.

A Pella student puts on a welding mask at the Vermeer Corporation welding station.

Pella-area high-school students pose in front of the mobile experience with Timmons, Gov. Reynolds, Lee and Ralston.

A Pella student tries out the Pella softball toss.

The response: Excited messages from tour stop sponsor Vermeer Corporation, journalists including Fox News broadcaster Connell McShane and business associations such as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry filled the Twitterverse last week in response to the mobile experience and its message.

The last word: Andringa underscored the readiness of his company to take on new creators. He said, “Vermeer has been proud to help generate and develop the next generation of the workforce we need for manufacturing.”

Workforce

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

Get the Latest News

Get involved

The city of Pella, Iowa, hosted a panel of distinguished Hawkeye State leaders on Tuesday who encouraged students to join the manufacturing industry and welcomed the Creators Wanted Tour Live on its third tour stop.

Having arrived in Iowa on Monday, the mobile experience, which is part of the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s comprehensive “Creators Wanted” workforce campaign, has been a main attraction this week. More than 400 students from multiple nearby schools, as well as local business and political leaders and the media, have attended in just its first two days of activation. The campaign’s aim: to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and help fill the 900,000-plus open manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

The largest sector in Iowa: Creators Wanted “is truly a unique opportunity for our young people to be introduced to the many exciting careers in manufacturing,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told the audience at the Pella kickoff event Tuesday morning. “As governor, it’s encouraging for me to see so many students turn out for manufacturing, which is the largest sector in our economy.”

  • Iowa boasts the third-highest concentration of manufacturing workers in the U.S., Gov. Reynolds said.
  • Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston also underscored the strong state of manufacturing in Iowa in his address, telling students that nearly 18% of state GDP comes from manufacturing. It is one of the largest percentages nationwide, Ralston said. “The output of all that manufacturing activity is almost $34 billion,” he told attendees.

‘Passionate about manufacturing’: Pella Corporation President and CEO Tim Yaggi told the audience, which included students from Pella High School, Oskaloosa High School and Prairie City Monroe Community High School, about his company’s original mission nearly a century ago. Yaggi hammered home that the firm still has many excellent jobs available for those able and willing.

  • “When Pete Kuyper founded Pella … he wasn’t passionate about windows or screens; he was passionate about manufacturing,” Yaggi said. “He knew that for this company, for this city to thrive, we needed a manufacturing base, and the reason he created the company was to create great jobs for the people of Iowa. Family. And that mission is just as true today as it was 96 years ago.”
  • Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Jason Andringa, host of the Pella tour stop, talked about the many families employed at his company. Children and grandchildren work alongside their parents and grandparents, he said. “Vermeer has been proud to help generate and develop the next generation of the workforce we need for manufacturing.”

Doing good—and being needed: In his remarks at the premier event, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons mixed things up by asking the audience about their plans for the future. “Raise your hand if you want to change the world for the better, if you want to do good,” he said. Numerous arms shot up. Continued Timmons, “With manufacturing, you can do good.”

Closing argument: “We need more people like you; we need you,” Timmons said. And what’s more, manufacturing gives people “opportunities to have a heck of a lot of fun.… I guarantee you are going to love it.”

Momentum: Joining the tour in Pella and broadcasting live from Vermeer Corporation, Fox Business Network and Fox News ran a combined five stories about the Creators Wanted campaign yesterday, including this hit with Neil Cavuto and Connell McShane. A CNN Newsource piece continues to appear in local television markets throughout the country. And Iowa news media is providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Creators Wanted Pella tour stop.

Want to join the list of Creators Wanted sponsors? Email the Creators Wanted campaign.

Workforce

STEP Ahead Awards Highlight Outstanding Women in Manufacturing

Get the Latest News

Get involved

Some of the most impressive women in the industry gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards—the first in-person ceremony since the pandemic began. The awards, and the leadership training program that precedes them, are designed to recognize and advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production. This year, honorees and “emerging leaders” from both 2020 and 2021 had the opportunity to attend the events, as last year’s events were online-only.

The leadership program: For the leadership training program, the MI brought in distinguished experts to help honorees advance their careers in the industry.

  • The program, consisting of general sessions and preselected breakouts, covered a range of must-have professional skills, such as negotiating. It also featured industry executives and STEP Ahead alumnae who provided firsthand accounts of their experiences in manufacturing, along with advice for navigating a career in the industry.

The awards ceremony: The awards gala took place on Thursday night. Nearly 600 guests gathered in person, adhering to strict health and safety protocols, including a vaccination requirement, while hundreds tuned in online. The program featured:

  • MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee;
  • 2021 STEP Ahead Chair and Johnson & Johnson Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer Kathy Wengel;
  • NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons; and
  • Keynote speaker and Gravitas Founder and CEO Lisa Sun.

The awards sponsors included BASF, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Trane Technologies, BorgWarner and Rockwell Automation. This year’s STEP Ahead Vice Chair and 3M Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Denise Rutherford and Ketchie Inc. President and Owner Courtney Silver served as the masters of ceremonies.

Leading in a crisis: The speakers acknowledged the toll that the pandemic has taken on manufacturers and praised the honorees for contributing to the industry’s robust response.

  • As Lee put it, “How many times did we get knocked down? How many times did we think, ‘Maybe we got knocked out’? But we’re still here. And we’re here and we’re standing because of you, because of manufacturing. The women in this room and industry and our world are going to come out of this stronger than ever.”
  • Wengel echoed this sentiment, saying, “When I look around this room, it hits me: the incredible impact on human life that manufacturers from so many industries … have made in the past 22 months.”

Creators needed: Timmons, who has been traveling with Lee to promote the NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted Tour Live mobile experience, talked about the importance of attracting more women to the industry.

  • “With your example and your mentorship, you’re giving more and more young people a reason to say, ‘I want to be just like her,’” he said. “And we urgently need more people like you.”

Setting an example: Keynote speaker Sun had the crowd laughing and cheering as she talked about the critical importance of self-confidence for women.

  • The child of Vietnamese immigrants, Sun worked for 11 years at consulting firm McKinsey & Company. During a year-long sabbatical from the firm, she decided to launch her own fashion company to help other professional women look and feel confident.
  • “My 22-year-old self was told that I didn’t have any gravitas; it spurred me to action,” said Sun, referencing the origin of her company’s name. “McKinsey just came out with their ‘Women in the Workplace’ study. Women were the reason that we got through this pandemic … [but] traditional HR structures will not value the things that we did: empathy, relationship building … We have to give ourselves credit first.”

The reactions: The social media response was excited and optimistic—and often just plain proud!

The last word: As Lee told the honorees, “The ripple effect of your example goes a long way—strengthening our industry and changing our world.”

View More