Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines! Heroes MAKE America is Reaching More Veterans
When service members leave the military, manufacturers are quick to say: “Come on over!” Military skills are usually a great match for manufacturing careers, which require attention to detail, technical abilities and creative thinking. And there’s no better matchmaker than the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America initiative, which since 2018 has been offering training certification programs and career courses to transitioning service members and veterans.
Today, HMA not only serves service members on military installations across the country but has also expanded its reach via a virtual training program.
Widening the reach: Now in its second year, the virtual training program has allowed HMA to impact service members on a national scale.
- For the first time, members from four branches—Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy—are participating in the same class at the same time.
- Additionally, the geographic range of participants has increased to comprise students located far and wide, including in Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Kansas and Kentucky.
- The program has reached more than 120,000 prospective students through local transition assistance, HMA’s LinkedIn and Facebook presence and the SkillBridge website.
How it works: HMA partnered with Texas State Technical College to create a virtual nine-week training and certification program.
- Participants earn nationally portable, industry-recognized Certified Production Technician certification as well as an OSHA 10 certification.
- Through Heroes Connect, HMA also partners with sponsors like Johnson & Johnson, The Caterpillar Foundation, Amazon, Howmet Aerospace, WestRock, Saint-Gobain, Atlas Copco, Cargill, FUCHS Lubricants Company, C.H. Guenther & Sons, Honda Foundation, Niagara Bottling and the NAFEM, PPI and SEMI Associations to connect program graduates and members of the military community with manufacturers.
What we’re saying: “It’s exciting to see members from four branches of the military all in one virtual classroom together,” said Heroes MAKE America Senior Program Manager Katie Bowerman. “There’s a lot of strength in that kind of diversity.”
Spread the word: Do you have jobs for which HMA students might qualify, or know of a service member who would want to join the program? The HMA virtual program is open to any transitioning service member who is in their last six months of active-duty service, as well as to veteran and active-duty military spouses. For more information, contact [email protected].
An Electrical Manufacturer Sparks Inclusion and Diversity
Manufacturers nationwide are taking steps to ensure a supportive and respectful workforce that values the varied talents and backgrounds of all employees. nVent—a manufacturer of electrical connection and protection solutions—believes that inclusion and diversity initiatives have the potential to positively impact every part of its business.
Inclusion and diversity have been a priority for nVent since it became a public company in 2018. By identifying strategic initiatives for its inclusion and diversity efforts, nVent has become a thought leader in the electrical manufacturing industry. Five years later, those initiatives have become a comprehensive strategy that is embedded in the company’s operations.
“We may not always have the answers,” said Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Laura Brock, “But we want to make sure we create an opportunity for progress and share the resources we have developed with our customers and partners to drive inclusion in our industry.”
A comprehensive strategy: nVent’s strategy is built around four pillars designed to promote inclusion and diversity throughout the company, according to Brock and Inclusion and Diversity Manager Jasmin Buckingham.
- Employees: From recruitment onward and throughout the employee lifecycle, nVent ensures that inclusion and diversity is part of every employee’s experience.
- Communities: nVent strives to be “a good citizen” in its community by promoting shared economic growth through multiple avenues—including philanthropy. It has made inclusion and diversity a central aim of these efforts.
- Customers: The company supports a diverse range of customers in the electrical industry and works to meet all customers where they are.
- Suppliers: nVent is focused on supplier diversity, which promotes engagement, growth and innovation through diverse business relationships.
Other initiatives: nVent runs several initiatives within its pillar strategy to drive inclusion and diversity across the company:
- ERGs: Employee Resource Groups are an important part of inclusion and diversity at nVent. These groups are “the hands and feet of creating an inclusive culture,” according to Brock. All employees are welcome to join ERGs, which create connections between peers across the globe. The ERGs allow employees to share experiences and discuss topics that are important to them, she added.
- Workshops: After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, nVent hosted workshops where people could ask questions and engage in discussion about race and injustice. Attendance sometimes topped 900 employees.
- Learning circles: nVent created a series of additional opportunities to bring employees together in inclusive spaces. These smaller groups allow employees to share stories and engage in open conversation.
Accountability for inclusion: Brock and Buckingham made it clear that the company’s inclusion and diversity work requires constant progress and accountability—making it essential to track metrics and promote improvements.
- Through an “inclusion index”—an employee pulse survey that sent out four times a year—nVent employees share their honest feedback. The data is then used to generate ESG scorecards for departments and leaders, which are a factor in compensation.
- “The choices we make and the behaviors we exhibit impact our culture at nVent. Everyone plays a role in creating an inclusive and respectful environment for all,” according to Brock.
Taking the pledge: nVent is also a proud signatory of the NAM’s Pledge for Action, which commits the industry “to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color” by 2025.
Advice for the industry: Companies should “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” according to Buckingham. “It can be uncomfortable having these open conversations … but it is important and impactful so that you can learn and understand one another better to make it a more inclusive workplace.”
Chart’s Jillian Evanko on the Adventure of Manufacturing Jobs
If you’re looking for a career with no “typical days,” Jillian Evanko would advise you to choose manufacturing.
Mixing it up: Every workday offers something new and exciting for Evanko, the president and CEO of Chart Industries, a global leader in the design, engineering and manufacture of process technologies and equipment for the clean energy and industrial gas markets.
- “Whether I have a customer meeting, an investor conference, a keynote speaking event, a panel session or meetings with my executive team, every single day looks different to me, which is what I love about my job,” said Evanko.
Business sense: It was a talent for business that led Evanko—a 2023 honoree of the Manufacturing Institute’s Women MAKE Awards, which recognize outstanding female talent in the manufacturing sector—to the industry.
- “Early in my career I worked for Honeywell and Dover Corporation in various financial and operational roles,” said Evanko, who holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
- Once she entered the field, she found that she genuinely enjoyed it—and she’s here to stay. “The fast-moving, exciting nature of the manufacturing industry is what keeps me in it,” she said. “There is always an opportunity to innovate or make a technological development, and you really get to see the impact of what you produce making a difference in everyday life.”
A changing industry: Evanko has seen manufacturing evolve for the better since she got her start, especially for women employees.
- “In the past few years, I think the world has come to recognize that there is a direct correlation between diversity in manufacturing and increased innovation,” she said. “By diversifying a workforce, you gain access to new thoughts, ideas and perspectives.”
- “Since I’ve begun my career, I have seen more women enter the manufacturing industry, and even within my past five years at Chart, we are continuing to see more women taking on more senior roles, including operations and manufacturing roles.”
Growing company: In recent months, Evanko has been even busier than usual, as Chart Industries recently completed its acquisition of Howden, an air- and gas-handling products manufacturer and services provider.
- The acquisition, Chart’s largest to date, has doubled the size of the company’s engineering team. It “helps us expand into new geographies and gain access to new customers, and it provides us with a much more expansive Nexus of Clean™ offering,” she said, referring to the firm’s array of products and solutions for a more sustainable future.
The best, period: Evanko devotes much of her time to helping and educating others. One example of this is the way she provides her daughter’s Girl Scout troop with access to entrepreneurial speakers, as well as information about the world of manufacturing. She has developed a mantra that keeps her constantly striving for improvement:
- “I like to say that I don’t want to be the best female CEO, I want to be the best CEO,” she said. “For women in manufacturing looking to grow in their careers, aim to be the best you can be despite gender, age or background.”
- “Be confident in what you bring to the table and never underestimate your abilities,” she continued. “Listen to others and empower them to bring their ideas forward. And never underestimate the power of simply being kind.”
Students Build the Future in Ohio
Where can you “race to the future” in a mobile, immersive manufacturing experience, try your hand at cutting-edge technology and get free career advice from top professionals? At a Creators Wanted stop, of course.
Participants at last week’s Creators Wanted stops in Marysville and Columbus, Ohio, did all this and more.
Two stops, one week: The Honda Heritage Center was the site of two days of educational fun last Wednesday and Thursday, after which the Creators Wanted Tour continued on to the COSI Science Festival in Columbus, Ohio’s largest STEM event, on Saturday.
- The stops were the 15th and 16th, respectively, on Creators Wanted’s nationwide tour, an initiative of the NAM and its 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate, the Manufacturing Institute.
- The tour aims to shore up the manufacturing workforce by 600,000 workers, increase the number of students enrolling in technical and vocational schools or reskilling programs by 25% and boost the positive perception of the industry among parents from 27% to 50%—all by 2025.
- Nearly 1,000 kids and adults came through the Creators Wanted immersive experience during its three days in Ohio, and 35,000 students and career mentors signed up to learn more about modern manufacturing careers, increasing the network to 1.2 million nationwide.
Sites to behold: More than 300 students from central Ohio schools toured the Honda Heritage Center on Wednesday and Thursday.
- Students learned about the American Honda Motor Company’s rich history of innovation, beginning in 1959, and toured the Honda Technical Development Center, where Honda associates advance their skills in high-tech manufacturing.
- Tour sponsor FactoryFix was on hand, too, helping students explore pathways to manufacturing careers through information handouts and in-person Q&As with company representatives.
Theme-park lines: At COSI, the Creators Wanted experience had the festival buzzing, with attendees lining up to take their turn. More than 675 kids and adults moved through the unit in just six hours.
- “We built this experience to excite future creators and their career mentors like parents,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas, who was onsite with the tour. “I’m not sure anyone fully anticipated how much of an attraction we’d be with the immersive experience—it’s a huge draw.”
A big commitment: Tour-stop host Honda—which has been instrumental in the launch and continuation of Creators Wanted—announced that it will increase its overall commitment to the Creators Wanted campaign to $2.25 million through 2025.
- “Creators Wanted is a great opportunity to showcase what the modern manufacturing environment is like and what the career opportunities are,” said American Honda Motor Company Executive Vice President Bob Nelson. “And there are many career opportunities for everyone.”
- “Honda’s incredible support and leadership has empowered our innovative campaign to thrive—to inspire students, to positively affect parents and teachers and, now with Creators Connect, to change even more lives,” said NAM President and CEO and MI Chairman of the Board Jay Timmons.
- Sara Tracey, managing director of workforce services for the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, which participated in the events, added, “There are so many opportunities [in manufacturing] for people, regardless of what their interests are.”
“Build the future”: At both the Honda Heritage Center and COSI, there was plenty for participants to do as well as see.
- Students, parents and other attendees from local communities got the chance to use some of the latest items produced by manufacturers. These included Honda’s virtual-reality paint simulator and Honda’s safety car interactive display, as well as the many hands-on manufacturing challenges in the Creators Wanted mobile experience.
- “Know that there is a place for you in manufacturing to put whatever your skills and interests and passions are to work to build the future,” said MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee.
A great place to work: Many Honda associates—eager to share their positive experiences—participated in the week’s events, too, and had great things to say about modern manufacturing careers while on the ground at COSI.
- “I don’t think people realize how complex a vehicle is,” said one participating Honda associate. “The work and the people behind it, and the effort it takes to bring it to market—I can’t express how much fun that really is.”
- Said another, “I like that every day is a little bit different.”
Behind the scenes: Interested in seeing how the Creators Wanted activation at COSI unfolded? Check out the NAM’s Instagram story from this weekend here.
Union Pacific Railroad CFO Talks About Supporting Women Workers
When Jennifer Hamann went to college, she intended to be a fashion merchandising major—but she soon realized that it wasn’t for her.
“At the time, fashion merchandising was a combination of business and home economics,” said Hamann. “When I found out I had to sew, I dropped out.”
Instead, she pivoted to finance, which set her on the path to her current position as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Union Pacific Railroad. She was recently honored by the Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s 501(c)(3) workforce development and education affiliate—with a Women MAKE Award, recognizing outstanding women working in the manufacturing industry.
A flexible career: When Hamann reflects on her time at Union Pacific, she sees flexibility and a willingness to try new things as a consistent theme—as when she shifted from a position on the audit staff to a role in human resources.
- “The thing that I think is a great selling point about Union Pacific is that you can still get your paycheck from the same company, but you can make wholesale career changes over the course of your career,” said Hamann.
- “I’ve done that. … I’ve taken on roles that were totally different than what I had gone to school for, or what I started doing when I came to Union Pacific. And I think that’s a real benefit to businesses like ours.”
Serving with pride: According to Hamann, the 161-year-old company’s workforce takes a great deal of pride in what they do and prioritizes a team-centered environment.
- “There’s tremendous pride in the workforce,” said Hamann. “Our tagline is Building America, and that really is how we think of ourselves. Supporting so many parts of America’s economy and so many communities—that pride is a big deal.”
Pushing for diversity: Hamann was previously president and now serves as the executive adviser of Union Pacific’s employee resource group for women called LEAD (which stands for Lead, Educate, Achieve and Develop). The ERG is one of nine at the railroad that helps foster inclusion and cultural awareness by creating networks that develop Union Pacific’s workforce and its culture.
- “One of the focus areas we’ve had as a [LEAD] group over the last several years is really reaching out into our field locations,” said Hamann. “If women can see other women in some of those roles that have been traditionally held by men, that helps give them greater confidence, and it helps in our overall recruiting and retention efforts to bring people into those jobs.”
Building a future: Hamann is proud of the work Union Pacific is doing to attract a diverse workforce, including by offering free college tuition for employees and by stressing pay equity and retention.
- “Not only do I think Union Pacific is a great place to work, but we really want it to be a great place for more women going forward,” said Hamann. “When I think about the future, I’d love to see it be a future where the demographics of Union Pacific reflect the demographics of the country and the communities where we operate.”
The last word: “This is a company with a very supportive culture,” said Hamann. “We value diversity, equity and inclusion. We want people to succeed. We have opportunities to build your network. Give us a try and see what you think.”
More reading: View the full list of this year’s Women MAKE Award Honorees and Emerging Leaders here, and learn more here about the Women MAKE Mentorship Program to help inspire the next generation of female talent.
“The Best Thing I Ever Did”: Creators Wanted Stops in Louisiana
It was the 14th stop of the Creators Wanted Tour, but the level of enthusiasm among attendees made it seem like the first.
What happened: This week’s visit of the award-winning mobile immersive experience—an initiative of the NAM and its 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate, the Manufacturing Institute—to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area was an unequivocal hit.
- Hosted by Dow with the participation of Union Pacific, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, FactoryFix, River Parishes Community College and BASF, the event drew more than 500 students to the college’s Westside Campus in Plaquemine, Louisiana. Students came from the college as well as area middle and high schools.
- The digital campaign signed up more than 26,000 new students and career mentors in Louisiana to learn more about modern manufacturing. In addition, Dow (a third-time Creators Wanted host) and Union Pacific had team members on-site to answer students’ questions about their careers.
High tech: Dow displayed drones and robots—including one named Spot—to give students a peek at some of the cutting-edge technologies they might expect to work with in manufacturing. Meanwhile, Union Pacific offered 3D virtual tours of company operations.
Manufacturing is everywhere: River Parishes Community College Chancellor Quintin D. Taylor, who gave opening remarks at the kickoff event, emphasized the extent to which manufacturing touches everyone each day—and how fulfilling a career in it can be.
- “Even the toothpaste we all used this morning was made in a facility that does manufacturing,” Taylor said. “Should a time come in your life where you decide to have a family, you have to be gainfully employed to take care of your family. Manufacturing is just one of many careers, quite frankly, that can help you do that.”
“Be somebody big”: Union Pacific Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker seconded that sentiment.
- “Who wants to make the world better and make a lot of money doing it?” Rocker asked the audience to a show of numerous hands. With a manufacturing career, “you can be the GOAT in your family,” he continued, referring to the acronym meaning “Greatest of All Time.” “You can be somebody big in your family.”
- Stay tuned: Union Pacific will host a Creators Wanted stop in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area in the fall.
Creators required: There’s an acute need for more workers in manufacturing, MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee said, and there’s something in it for everyone.
- “I can promise you if you are interested in designing, building, solving, creating things, fixing things with your hands, just figuring stuff out, there is a home for you in manufacturing,” she said.
- Lee cited research by the MI and Deloitte that found if current trends continue, manufacturers will need to fill some 4 million jobs by the end of this decade.
Autograph-worthy: Attendees were so inspired by the kickoff-event remarks of Dow Chairman and CEO (and NAM Board Chair) Jim Fitterling—who spoke about students’ opportunities to do something historic in their careers—that several requested his autograph.
- “The world’s going through one of the biggest changes since we industrialized the United States,” said Fitterling, who along with NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons wrote an op-ed about the tour that appeared in the Louisiana Policy Review this week.
- “We’re about to go through another … massive change because we’re going to reindustrialize this country. And that means you are going to get to work on some of the biggest projects that we have ever seen in the world.”
- Fitterling, who personally took students through the Creators Wanted immersive experience before his talk, emphasized, “We’re here to see you. We’re interested in you. We want you to have a great future, and we want you to have … opportunities.”
“I’m still having fun”: Panel discussions featured leaders and team members from Dow as well as Turner Industries, giving students a more in-depth perspective about modern manufacturing careers.
- During an on-stage discussion with Fitterling, Dow Senior Lead Site Manufacturing Director Crystal King told the audience how she came to choose engineering: her mother chose it for her.
- “When I was in 10th grade, my mom asked me what did I want to do,” King said. She had said she wanted to go into education because her mother was a teacher. Then her mother “explained that when she went to college, there were only two things that, as an African-American female, she could be. One was a teacher, and one was a nurse. And I needed to do something other than either one of the two of them.”
- Despite thinking she “would hate” being an engineer, King loved it—and she still loves it. “This is the best job in the world,” she told the audience. “I tease Jim [Fitterling]—I say, ‘When I stop having fun, I’m going home.’ I’m still having fun.”
The reception: In addition to a student who was “left … speechless” by the week’s events and another who called Creators Wanted “the best thing I ever did,” the tour stop had social media abuzz with praise for the initiative:
- “Thank you to #CreatorsWanted for hosting our students over the past two days,” tweeted White Castle High School. “The students had a great time learning and building excitement about modern manufacturing careers.”
- “Our Juniors and Seniors are having a fantastic time at #creatorswanted today!” tweeted Plaquemine High School. “They’re expanding their knowledge of the manufacturing industry and workforce, while also getting a chance to tour RPCC. A big thank you to #Creatorswanted, Dow and RPCC for this opportunity!”
Coming up: Creators Wanted will travel to Marysville and Columbus, Ohio, next week for stops at the Honda Heritage Center and the COSI Science Festival, sponsored by Honda. Later in May, the tour goes to the Indy 500 in Indianapolis.
Creators Wanted in action: See here, here and here for exciting footage of this week’s tour stop, including the remarks of LABI Interim President and CEO Jim Patterson.
Women MAKE Awards Showcase Manufacturing Excellence
The energy and enthusiasm of the night were fittingly high for the occasion: a gala to honor 130 standout women in manufacturing.
What went on: The Manufacturing Institute’s 2023 Women MAKE Awards—formerly the STEP Ahead Awards—took place Thursday evening at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., following the two-day Women MAKE Leadership Conference. (The MI is the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.)
- The gala—which featured a live performance by violinist Ezinma and was sponsored this year by BASF, Trane Technologies, Amazon and others—is held each year to honor women in manufacturing who exemplify leadership in their careers.
- This year the awards recognized 100 honorees and 30 “emerging leaders,” women under the age of 30 who have achieved unique accomplishments.
What was said: MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee delivered the night’s opening remarks, telling audience members she was humbled to be in their midst.
- “We have women who have launched entire product lines,” she said. “Women with dozens of patents to their name. Women who oversee the production and distribution of millions of products every day … women who constantly exceed expectations.”
- Carolyn Lee touched on the MI’s year-old 35×30 campaign, which aims to raise the percentage of women in manufacturing from 29% to 35% by 2030, and said the women honored at the gala serve as inspiration to young women considering manufacturing careers. “Because if you can see it, you can be it,” she said.
“The opportunity”: WMA Chair and Cornerstone Building Brands President and CEO Rose Lee underscored the importance of filling the current shortfall of manufacturing workers.
- If the shortage continues unchecked, the number of missing workers could exceed 2 million by 2030, she said, citing a study by the MI and Deloitte.
- “Therein lies the opportunity to engage an untapped, underutilized pool of women talent in the vitally important manufacturing sector,” Lee continued. “This is the collective work we need to pursue, and the honorees and emerging leaders here tonight are advancing this work by demonstrating the myriad ways in which women can achieve professional success in the manufacturing industry.”
Thank you: MI Board Chair and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons thanked the honorees for showing the next generation what’s possible.
- “Thank you for being role models—including for my daughters and my son, the many families we have in this room and the people you impact every day,” Timmons said. “The ripple effect you can have is incalculable.”
From one to many: Rounding out the night’s lineup was event Vice Chair and Caterpillar Inc. Group President of Resource Industries Denise Johnson, who told the audience it was “remarkable” to be in a room with so many other women in manufacturing.
- “There have been many times throughout my career when I’ve been the only woman in a room, the only woman on a project,” she said. “What an incredible change of pace this is. I … am overwhelmed with gratitude and pride for how far we’ve come. Congratulations to all of you.”
Cornerstone Building Brands’ Rose Lee on Leadership in Manufacturing
“It is up to us to shape our future,” Rose Lee advises women in manufacturing.
Women should “take the opportunity to lead and do it in your own way with the outcomes you know you’ll be able to produce so others will see you as an example of diversity,” continued the President and CEO of North Carolina–based Cornerstone Building Brands and member of the NAM Executive Committee. “There is not just one way of doing it, even in the manufacturing environment.”
This year, Lee is serving as chair of the Manufacturing Institute’s Women MAKE Awards, which will honor more than 100 outstanding women working in the industry. We spoke to Lee ahead of the awards ceremony, and here’s what she had to say.
Finding your passion: Lee describes herself as someone who derives a lot of satisfaction from the work she does—and wants to ensure others can do the same.
- “In our company, we are part of creating things that are part of the most important things in your life: your home, your shelter,” said Lee, who holds degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering as well as an M.B.A. “I find that very meaningful.”
- But her focus extends beyond the tangible, too. “There’s the content of what is done, but then there’s the opportunity that can be created for others … [which] increases the probability that they can find passion and enjoyment … like I had the opportunity to do.”
Increasing diversity: When it comes to diversifying the job pipeline in manufacturing, candidates themselves can often play a bigger role in their own success than they may realize, Lee said.
- “It starts with awareness that there are these opportunities. Then, [candidates should seek] the training, exposure and knowledge that are critical for these roles.”
- Meanwhile, “those of us who have the opportunity [must] make our voices louder,” she added. “Reach out to help people understand more clearly what is required and how you can advance yourself.”
- “We should all think about what more we can do ourselves and what more we can do together to welcome more women into manufacturing.” she continued.
Workplace flexibility: The same goes for manufacturers seeking to increase the number of women in their workforce, Lee added.
- “There is no magic solution,” Lee said. “But it’s important for companies and organizations to have a supportive structure, whether by providing [varied] job content, time off or additional flexibility in the work environment that [allows women to] balance things better.”
- “Supporting great initiatives that prioritize recognition, mentoring, education, skills training and networking are powerful ways to build a much stronger pipeline of women in manufacturing.”
Letting it go: Lee also knows a lot about having a rewarding career in manufacturing while being a caregiver at home—because she’s learned it firsthand.
- “Just remember that you can’t be everything to everybody all the time,” said Lee, a mother of two daughters. “It’s OK; let it go. Your kid doesn’t have to look like they’re in their Sunday best all the time.”
- Nor does the parenting style or career path that works for someone else have to work for you, she added. “You’ve got to design [being a working parent] so it’s bespoke to your life.”
Making history: Last year, when Honeywell International added her to its board of directors, Lee became the first Korean American woman to sit on the board of a Fortune 100 company. She regards the position as an opportunity to accomplish even more.
- “The building materials space doesn’t live in isolation,” Lee said. “Having a connection to a broader space, under global dynamics, helps [create] connectivity. We are continually deepening our knowledge.”
How Manufacturers Can Recruit Effectively
With 9.9 million job openings in the economy and 5.7 million people looking for jobs, the labor market is tight, with only 58 job seekers for every 100 job openings. Manufacturers who are looking to fill almost 700,000 jobs are struggling to find talent. That’s why the Manufacturing Institute convened a group of manufacturers last month for the Solution Series: Recruitment Workshop, where they discussed recruitment challenges and identified ways to address them. Here are some of the takeaways.
A wide range of challenges: At the beginning of the workshop, participants brought up the challenges they face in recruiting employees, particularly hourly and shop-floor workers.
- The most commonly cited challenge was communicating company culture and brand messaging. Several manufacturers in attendance had multiple locations with different cultures, which made it difficult to create consistent job postings. Meanwhile, other companies did not have a defined mission or set of values that they could easily promote to prospective employees.
- As one participant put it, “It’s important to think through why working at your company is good. This is different than the reasons why buying from the company is good.”
- Other challenges that participants shared included determining the right compensation in a competitive labor market, educating upper management on the changing economic landscape and attracting a wide array of candidates.
Food for thought: Participants then listened to industry experts speak about manufacturing employment trends, fair chance hiring, the gig economy and the importance of speed in recruitment.
- Employment trends: Manufacturers are competing against other manufacturers and industries for the same, limited labor pool, noted Chad Moutray, the director of the MI’s Center for Manufacturing Research and the NAM’s chief economist. “Issues like company culture, flexibility and career advancement become critical differentiators in a tight labor market,” he advised.
- Fair chance hiring: As Cassi Zumbiel, managing director at Envoy, put it, “Many of the barriers keeping second chance workers [individuals with criminal records] from good jobs were instituted by employers when the labor market was dramatically different, when there was a surplus of labor. That’s not the case anymore. Fair chance hiring can help address the labor shortage.”
- Gig workers: Wes Wood, director of strategic growth at Veryable, shared how his company’s online application connects gig workers to manufacturing jobs, filling in gaps in second and third shifts and having a positive impact on company culture.
- Recruitment: With manufacturers facing stiff competition for talent, moving quickly in the recruitment process makes a difference. Mike Schaefer, senior vice president at FactoryFix, described how his company supports manufacturers by automating follow-up within 15 minutes of a job seeker submitting an application.
Time to brainstorm: Participants also broke out into small groups to discuss their top challenges and brainstorm solutions. Here were some of their recommendations:
- Tighten up the job description. Think of a job description as an advertisement—not a contract. Keep it short. As one participant put it, “You don’t want to advertise accountability.” Another good tip: An external job description should not be the same as the internal job description. Only the latter should include all the details and technicalities.
- Streamline the application process. Don’t require a resume or cover letter for most of your hourly or entry-level positions. Ask only the key questions and reserve more in-depth ones for the phone screen or interview. One company cut its process down from 12 minutes to 3—and started receiving significantly more applications.
- Think about how to source talent. Consider working with K–12 schools, vocational programs and community colleges, or consider creating a second chance program, veterans program or refugee program. Lots of great talent pools exist. Manufacturers should explore their local options, find community partners and conduct consistent outreach.
The last word: After a day of energizing conversations, participants left ready to implement what they had learned. As one attendee put it, “Hearing what works and doesn’t work for other manufacturers was absolutely amazing.”
A FAME Student Finds His Place at Electrolux Group
From the first moment Caleb Cleveland visited Electrolux Group—a home products and appliance manufacturer in Springfield, Tennessee—he knew it was the place for him.
“I knew I wanted to work with my hands,” said Cleveland. “I didn’t want to be sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen. I loved this place from day one.”
Cleveland found Electrolux Group through the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, or FAME, which his guidance counselor recommended to him. Today, both he and his employer are thrilled he’s taking part.
The program: Founded in 2010 by Toyota and operated today by the Manufacturing Institute, FAME aims to help students become highly skilled, sought-after workers capable of meeting the unique needs and challenges of the modern manufacturing sector.
- It provides current and aspiring workers with on-the-job training and classroom education, leading to an associate degree and the FAME advanced manufacturing technician certificate.
- “This program is one of a kind,” said Cleveland. “I’m actually getting paid to go to school. I’m getting the classroom and training classes here at Electrolux Group. I’m learning from people at school and from experts here.”
The benefits: At a time when manufacturers are struggling with record high job openings and a lack of skilled workers, FAME is helping to bring in a new generation of employees.
- Cleveland will be the Electrolux Group’s first graduate of the program when he completes it in May 2024, and the company sees his success as both a point of pride and an investment in the future of manufacturing.
- “We are committed to continuous upskilling of our current workforce and this is a strong pipeline for new talent with digital skills,” said Electrolux Group Senior Manager of Learning Dan Caldwell. “Part of our strategy is to partner with the FAME program so we can not only bring in Caleb with his classroom knowledge, but also help him to learn and grow.”
Changing minds: FAME is also helping to improve perceptions of the manufacturing industry among young people.
- “In the past, manufacturing has had a dark and gloomy reputation, and we are changing that perspective,” said Electrolux Technical Trainer Eric Drake. “We want up-and-coming talent to know that there are people in manufacturing who care about their future and want them to succeed. We’ll provide the stepping stones for their journey.”
Off to a great start: According to Caldwell and Drake, Cleveland has been an enormous asset for the company already.
- By the end of his first semester, he was able to step in and do most of the work of a process technician, filling in at a time when the company was shorthanded.
- “Caleb is doing a knockout job,” said Drake. “Our objective is to make opportunities available for him.” Caldwell added, “We are incredibly proud of Caleb with the initiative he takes.”
The bottom line: “The program has exceeded my expectations,” said Cleveland. “When I first started I was worried about being seen as that intern who sticks to somebody’s hip. But at Electrolux Group, I found my own place.”