The Creators Wanted Tour marked several milestones yesterday, as it kicked off its 10th stop on its cross-country trek and first-ever appearance at a major golf tournament.
In the swing of things: With generous support from Dow, the Creators Wanted Tour—a joint initiative of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute—arrived in Midland, Michigan, this week for the LPGA Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
- The tour’s goal: to educate and excite students, parents, teachers and other mentors across the country about careers in modern manufacturing—in part with trips through an immersive series of “escape rooms” where participants get hands-on with advanced manufacturing, learn about the creative skills at work in the industry and have fun solving riddles and puzzles that unpack key information about manufacturing careers.
- Dow recently announced that it is doubling its initial Creators Wanted campaign commitment to $2 million, which will help ensure continued tour stops and more outreach to the next generation of manufacturers.
Competitors needed: For the U.S. to remain competitive on the world stage, its manufacturing sector requires willing, dedicated talent, Dow Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Jim Fitterling told the audience at the tour stop’s kickoff event on Wednesday. Fitterling joined representatives from the NAM, the MI and the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
- “The competitiveness of America’s workforce is critical,” Fitterling said. “If we want those supply chains back here, it isn’t a labor cost issue. It’s really [about] skills, and it’s also [about worker] interest.”
- Michigan Manufacturers Association President and CEO John Walsh agreed, saying, “The number-one concern in every single company across the entire state in every single industry is personnel—getting people who are interested in manufacturing to come work and stay and move forward.”
- The industry has averaged 800,000 job openings every month for more than a year, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons noted.
- That could spell trouble for the economy as a whole, said Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee: “By the end of 2030, if we don’t fill these jobs, it could be a $1 trillion loss in GDP for the U.S.”
Not your grandparents’ manufacturing: The speakers pointed out that manufacturers must counteract the outdated and erroneous perceptions about their industry.
- “An awful lot of students say that they won’t consider going into manufacturing because they aren’t encouraged by their parents to go into that field,” Fitterling said. “And sometimes they have perceptions about manufacturing that just aren’t current and aren’t modern. Creators Wanted is about … [giving] them a hands-on experience to show them what’s going on in advanced manufacturing today. This is a world that’s very digital. … There are all kinds of new technologies being used.”
- One of the Creators Wanted Tour’s measurable goals by 2025 is “to change the perception for parents from 27% [favorability regarding manufacturing], where we began just a couple years ago, to 50%,” Lee said.
BAs not required: Manufacturing also offers career paths that don’t require a college degree, the speakers noted—another potential advantage that young people should know.
- “There’s an alternative to college,” Fitterling said. “College is wonderful. And for those who wish to pursue that, they should, but there are students who might want to make something with their hands.”
- Timmons recounted how his own father, who worked in the retail industry, was determined that Timmons attend college. “He said, ‘I want you to pursue a different type of career,’” Timmons said. “[But] I think we’ve gone full circle. And I think we realize now that today the manufacturing industry is the future. It is the future that everybody wants for their children.”
The last say: Careers that start on factory floors in manufacturing facilities can lead to leadership roles, Fitterling reminded the audience.
- “Many generations of people in manufacturing [at Dow] have had great careers, and some have even gone on to lead companies out of that background,” he said. “We want to show students what’s possible and make sure that we use this [Creators Wanted] platform to get that message out and have the impact that we want to have throughout the United States.”
Related: Earlier in the day at a Success, Opportunity, Acceleration and Resilience (SOAR) event, during a fireside chat with Dow Senior Vice President of Operations, Manufacturing and Engineering John Sampson and in front of a packed crowd, Lee announced that Dow is providing a $500,000 grant over four years to support the MI’s Women MAKE America’s 35×30 campaign. The campaign aims to see women represent 35% of the manufacturing workforce by 2030.
Coming up next: The Creators Wanted Tour will come to several cities, including Columbia, South Carolina, Chicago and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in fall 2022.
If you want to be like Andrea Tucker, just ask her how she got to where she is today—she’ll happily help you plot a path to professional success like hers.
Rising to the top: Tucker is a complex plant manager at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the largest pork-processing plant in the world. But she didn’t begin there, and she wants other Smithfield employees to know it.
- “I started as an hourly employee on third shift, and now I’m running the plant,” said Tucker, a 2019 honoree of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards (now the Women MAKE America Awards). “If you want to be me, let’s put a plan together and work toward it. At Smithfield, if you put in the work, it gets noticed.”
Manufacturing from the start: Tucker, a Georgia native, grew up on a small tobacco farm. In 2000, a lifetime affinity for numbers, process and mathematics led her to answer an ad seeking an accounting inventory clerk at Smithfield.
- “For me, working in manufacturing kind of closed the gap of what happens after things are grown or made or after animals are raised,” Tucker said. “A passion was ignited in me: [for] the process flows, the ‘people’ side of things and how things work. I could use my love of math and make and see real change. From that day on, I felt like I could do something that mattered.”
“You’re your own limit”: Since joining Smithfield, Tucker has worked in multiple positions across the meat-packing company’s accounting and operations teams. Along the way, she received encouragement from management, and that backing has led her to become a trusted mentor to other employees.
- “[When I was an hourly worker], I was told, ‘You have a good grasp of how things work. You know how to motivate and inspire people. Have you thought of operations?’” Tucker recalled of her first career change within Smithfield. “Smithfield is a big advocate of ‘you’re your own limit.’ You’re not tied to one plant or position or department.”
- At the company’s urging, after 12 years in Tar Heel, Tucker took a position at Smithfield’s Wilson, North Carolina, facility as plant manager.
Women in manufacturing: The move “inspired me to see results, not only in processes but in other people, primarily women,” Tucker said.
- “For many [of the women at the facility], I was not only Andrea the manager but Andrea the counselor, Andrea the person I can talk to about this problem I’m having with my 13-year-old,” she said. “There were a lot of single moms.”
- The success stories among this contingent are many, Tucker said. Here’s one: Tucker noticed that an employee, a young mother, was struggling personally—and she learned that the woman was at risk of losing custody of her children. “I said, ‘Look, I know you have three kids, and this is not the life you wanted. I need you to be able to be that responsible parent. Smithfield has an employee assistance program; let’s get you enrolled. If I get your commitment that you’re ready for change, I will make sure you stay that course.’”
- The employee did. “She put forth the effort. She and her kids, they’re thriving. She’s even enrolled in one of our emerging leaders programs.”
Opportunities abound: Smithfield continues to create pathways to professional advancement for its employees. These include:
- A tuition reimbursement program;
- A mentorship program; and
- Women’s Connect, a mentorship program specifically for women.
Continuing to inspire: Tucker came back to Tar Heel earlier this year, in another step upward within the company. When she was first offered her current job, Tucker—despite having coached so many employees successfully—wasn’t sure she would be able to do it.
- “Then I told myself, ‘Think about all the stories where people said they never thought they could do more,’” she said. “It reminded me, ‘You reached out and touched so many people at Wilson, why are you not giving yourself the same opportunity in Tar Heel, back where you started?’”
The last word: Tucker has advice for those daunted by moving up the ladder at work. “At the end of the day, it’s just people,” she said. “You take it one day at a time, and you just try to touch the lives of as many people as you can.”
This week, the Creators Wanted Tour Live made its eighth national tour stop—at Walmart’s 9th annual open call for entrepreneurs and manufacturers.
Drawing a crowd: On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Creators Wanted mobile experience was onsite in Bentonville, Arkansas, as 1,100 small and medium-sized business owners pitched their products to Walmart and Sam’s Club for Walmart’s Open Call 2022. The ultimate prize for the business owners? A “gold ticket” to get their products into the stores.
- The two-day Creators Wanted stop drew more than 2,000 people, many of whom jumped at the opportunity to solve puzzles and “race to the future” in the award-winning, immersive escape room.
- In addition to Walmart, Chart Industries, a leading global manufacturer of highly engineered equipment servicing multiple applications in clean energy and industrial gas markets, helped bring the experience to Open Call attendees and the Bentonville community.
- The tour, which aims to generate interest in and excitement about manufacturing careers, is a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner The Manufacturing Institute.
Committed to manufacturing: The aim of bringing Creators Wanted to this year’s Open Call was to bolster the positive perception of modern manufacturing careers, recruit new manufacturers and connect entrepreneurs and manufacturers with the MI’s workforce-shortage solutions.
- Walmart has committed to spending $350 billion on products made, grown or assembled in the U.S., in addition to the $250 billion the company pledged in 2013 to spend on similar products.
- Total estimated job growth from these investments: 750,000 new American positions by 2031.
Who was there: MI President Carolyn Lee and Vice President of Program Execution Herb Grant were on hand to give manufacturers greater insight into the MI’s growing set of solutions to the dearth of skilled manufacturing labor.
- Also onsite was new Creators Wanted partner FactoryFix, whose team members helped attendee manufacturers source new talent for their businesses and taught job seekers how to build rewarding careers in the industry.
The reaction: “Wherever we go with our Creators Wanted Tour—including here in Bentonville, Arkansas—students, parents, career mentors and even professionals in other industries see what manufacturing can mean and create for futures,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas. “It’s showing there’s dignity, a “cool” factor and massive reward in making things in the United States. Eyes light up.”
The reach: On the second day of the event, more than 3,000 students had already signed up online to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
Up next: Coinciding with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on the LPGA tour, the Creators Wanted Tour Live will make its ninth stop in Midland, Michigan, July 13–16.
The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s workforce development and education partner, is hard at work preparing for MFG Day 2022, coming up on Oct. 7 and celebrated throughout the month of October. In a recent webinar—led by MI Director of Student Engagement Jen White—participants learned about the importance of MFG Day, as well as best practices for planning an MFG Day event.
What it is: MFG Day, organized nationally by the MI, is the industry’s largest grassroots movement to open doors to manufacturing for students, parents and educators.
- A major goal of MFG Day is to change common misconceptions and stereotypes about the manufacturing industry, letting participating students see for themselves that manufacturing plants are modern, safe workplaces that use the most technologically advanced processes to create all kinds of crucial goods.
- Host companies often welcome a mix of students, educators, parents and community leaders and provide them with an inside view of the industry—and the careers available.
Why it matters: MFG Day is crucial to solving the impending workforce crisis in the industry.
- Manufacturers will need to fill about 4 million jobs by 2030, but right now, more than half of those jobs are projected to be unfilled because of a lack of qualified talent or skills. That shortage could cost the U.S. economy up to $1 trillion!
- “We have to increase awareness among students, educators, parents and other adults of influence and the public in general of the importance that manufacturers play in our daily lives,” said White.
Planning an event: The MI has a variety of resources available to help companies plan and execute their MFG Day events this year.
- Past events have ranged from open houses with tours to expos, job fairs and roundtable discussions—and often, companies team up with other manufacturers nearby to create a group event.
- Check out creatorswanted.org/resources for help.
Best practices: During the webinar, White noted that the key to a successful MFG Day event is knowing who your audience is and what they are interested in—and making sure your company can engage with them.
- This can include working with local schools, and also “local liaisons, your workforce boards, your chambers of commerce, local associations, community-based organizations like boys and girls clubs or the Girl Scouts,” said White. “There’s so many different organizations out there that already have wonderful relationships with youth and students.”
- “The key is getting involved and starting to build those partnerships with those schools and those community organizations—and not just to have it be on that one day, but continually. I say MFG Day is every day,” White added.
Timeline: The time to start planning an MFG Day event is today!
- White recommends that potential MFG day hosts begin planning event logistics and start contacting schools or community groups during the summer months.
- Once a plan is in place, it can be registered on the Creators Wanted website and officially listed.
The last word: “We must build ongoing partnerships between companies, community, organizations and schools to continue the engagement beyond one single connection opportunity or one day,” said White. “It won’t easy. It won’t be quick, but it is the way ahead, and students are our future.”
If it hadn’t been for his cousin, Tagba Djato-Bougonou might never have found Tyson Foods.
In 2017, the engineer was working at a bank in Iowa, where he’d ultimately relocated after emigrating from Togo in West Africa. He was living with his cousin, who was working at Tyson Foods, when the cousin told him about Tyson’s 1+2 Maintenance Program.
“He told me about the good stuff that Tyson has and the 1+2 Maintenance Program and what I could achieve with it,” Djato-Bougonou recalls. “And I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to take a shot with that program.’”
- Djato-Bougonou, who has an engineering background and a graduate degree from a U.S. university, was quickly hired on as part of the initiative.
- 1+2 allows new hires to “earn while you learn” by splitting their workdays between a classroom and hands-on work in a Tyson facility. It gets its name from the one year of education and training participants do, followed by the two years they commit to working for the company.
The results speak for themselves: now a full-time project engineer in Tyson’s Fresh Meats department, Djato-Bougonou is also pursuing a Ph.D. in innovation and project management.
Tyson’s workforce initiatives are increasingly designed to find and reward employees like Djato-Bougonou, who come to Tyson with impressive professional backgrounds earned in other countries.
- “We try to find candidates that, like Tagba, have a deep portfolio outside the U.S. and [whom] we can upskill, with some English and some recertification in the U.S.,” said Tyson Foods Workforce Development Trailblazer Anson Green, who leads economic opportunity efforts, including the in-plant career-development program Upward Pathways.
- In many of the more rural communities that are home to Tyson plants, “there is no large labor pool to draw from,” Green said. Creating unique paths for non-native-born employees to fill skilled-worker roles is a strategy that has helped fill this void.
The success stories are numerous, including many team members who came to the company to apply for one job but, owing to education or work experience garnered internationally, were able to continue on a professional path they thought they’d had to give up.
- One team member, formerly a nurse in her home country, is now developing her English skills and preparing for recertification in the U.S. to work at one of Tyson’s onsite health clinics, according to Green.
- Another team member who now works at a Tyson Foods’ Arkansas plant was previously a legal aide in the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic. With Tyson’s support, she is also developing her English skills and will be applying to work as a paralegal in the company’s corporate office in Northwest Arkansas.
The last word: For Djato-Bougonou and other Tyson team members who have benefited from an encouraging corporate leadership, the sky’s now the professional limit.
- “I wanted to be part of things which can make a big difference in people’s lives,” Djato-Bougonou said, adding that with the 1+2 Program under his belt, he now feels empowered to do just that. “This program … gave me quite a lot of new skills. It changed a lot of things in my own life.”
How are manufacturers developing a workforce for a fast-changing industry in a fast-changing decade? Recently, Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee sat down with leaders at Union Pacific Railroad and the Caterpillar Foundation to find out.
Union Pacific Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations and Chief Administrative Officer Scott Moore discussed his company’s efforts to recruit more women and young people to the manufacturing industry. Caterpillar Foundation President Asha Varghese weighed in on Caterpillar Foundation’s efforts to support training opportunities for the military community and introduce high school students to innovative manufacturing careers.
What Union Pacific is up to: The Union Pacific and MI partnership is centered around a program called Careers on Track. This three-year, $3 million initiative is aimed at changing perceptions of the rail industry and encouraging women and youth to pursue careers in the field.
- As part of Careers on Track, Union Pacific and the MI developed Future Creators, a digital STEM curriculum focused on transportation, distribution and logistics.
- Future Creators has been used in more than 24,000 middle schools across the country with 80% of students increasing their knowledge of STEM careers.
How they’re doing it: The MI and Union Pacific created a 3D digital experience of a Union Pacific yard and locomotive that is designed to help women and young people explore technical fields interactively.
- Their other outreach efforts include 30-second PSA-style videos that showcase female employees and their stories to highlight career paths at Union Pacific and events hosted through the MI’s STEP Women’s Initiative.
- Union Pacific has reached more than 250,000 women through this content, demonstrating what women just like them can achieve in the manufacturing industry.
Union Pacific says: “We’ve always known diversity is key at Union Pacific, and to achieve that, there are deliberate things we need to do,” said Moore. “We’re going to have to reach people. Around 90% of our workforce is union, primarily in the field, across 23 states and 7,000 communities. We have to get in those communities—and The Manufacturing Institute gave us the tools to do that well.”
What Caterpillar is doing: The Caterpillar Foundation’s partnership with the MI is investing in workforce readiness and building an empowered and skilled manufacturing workforce.
- This partnership is expanding the MI’s Heroes MAKE America program, which provides certification and career-readiness training to transitioning service members, veterans, military spouses and others who work in or with the armed services.
- One of the partnership’s first efforts was to create a fully virtual program to further Heroes’ reach regardless of physical location.
- The first 100% virtual Certified Production Technician training program was launched in late 2021, in partnership with Texas State Technical College and TRANSFRVR.
In addition, the Caterpillar Foundation is also working with the MI’s FAME program—a 21-month apprenticeship program founded by Toyota that grants certifications and prepares young people for high-skilled jobs in the manufacturing workforce.
- Most recently, the MI and the Caterpillar Foundation created a new FAME chapter in Seguin, Texas.
Caterpillar says: “Caterpillar Foundation focuses on resilient communities, and we understand the importance of investing in local communities in order to ensure that we’re providing them with the right resources, with the right services and with the right skills for employability,” said Varghese. “What really attracted us to the MI is first and foremost that strategic alignment…focusing on that untapped talent.”
The last word: “As a nonprofit, the MI depends on the investments of corporate and philanthropic leaders to tackle the workforce crisis in manufacturing with innovative, exciting workforce solutions,” said Lee. “The MI’s work has expanded to include a full collection of initiatives that not only train individuals for rewarding careers but also provide the thought leadership, best practices and learning networks that manufacturers need to address their workforce issues.”
Manufacturing companies are increasing wages to stay competitive in attracting and retaining workers, according to a new study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute and Colonial Life.
Tight labor market: Of the survey respondents, 93% had unfilled positions in their companies that they were struggling to find qualified applicants for.
- Nearly 90% said they have increased compensation and incentives to pursue and retain employees.
- Seventy-three percent of respondents felt that increasing compensation helped their company stay competitive.
The big picture: Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in manufacturing climbed to $24.78 in March, up 5.5% from one year ago.
- Despite significant wage increases, the labor force participation rate was below pre-pandemic levels at just 62.2% in April.
Other benefits: Hourly wages and salaries were most important for attracting and retaining workers, but other benefits were also effective.
- Manufacturing companies have also attracted employees with health, dental and vision insurance, bonuses and/or additional income opportunities, paid vacation and sick time, contributions to a 401(k) or retirement plan and flexible work hours.
What the MI is saying: “We continue to see record growth in wages, and many of the companies we spoke with are offering even more generous benefits packages to try and differentiate themselves from other sectors struggling to find talent in a tight labor market,” said MI President Carolyn Lee.
- “We’re averaging more than 800,000 open jobs in manufacturing a month, and the MI is focused on equipping manufacturers with tools and strategies to overcome this challenge so we can reach our full potential.”
Learn more: Looking for retention strategies you can use right away? The MI will be hosting a retention workshop on June 7–8. Find out more and register here.
Few C-suite job descriptions include being smeared with baked goods, but for Pella’s Joher Akolawala, getting a pie in the face last November was just another day in the life—and another step toward broadening the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation among employees.
Dessert for diversity: “The main event at our Day of Giving was a livestream of executives doing a pie-baking competition,” explained Pella Senior Digital Talent Brand Strategist Kolbie Creger, who leads a DE&I-related employee committee at the Iowa-based window and door manufacturer. Pella’s Go Beyond for a Cause committee focuses on rallying team members around DE&I efforts within their walls and communities through education and engagement opportunities.
- “Team members donated [money] into each executive’s pie tin, and the one with the most money in their bucket got a pie in the face. It ended up being our CFO [Akolawala], who was a great sport about it.”
“Fun raising”: So, what do pies have to do with diversity? Pella’s 2021 “Pie in the Face” and other activities during the company’s first annual Day of Giving raised $17,000 in 24 hours for diversity-focused education efforts for partner philanthropies, including the nonprofit organization Facing History and Ourselves, Creger said.
- Team members on Pella factory floors nationwide got in on the fun, with each manufacturing site getting to “pie” department managers, bid on auction items and compete to raise money for DE&I efforts.
- In total, across myriad fundraising efforts, Pella donated more than $90,000 to DE&I initiatives in 2021.
“GIVE IT UP”: Last year, Creger’s team, the Go Beyond Committee, which is currently at work organizing 2022’s dedicated, daylong DE&I effort, asked Pella employees to each give up a small daily “guilty pleasure” purchase of their choice.
- “It could be a coffee, a fast-food meal or an [overpriced] Diet Coke,” Creger said. “We asked them to take that money and instead donate it” to one of Pella’s DE&I partner philanthropies.
- “It’s just about continuing to layer in the larger ‘Why?’ in all of our communication,” Creger continued. “We are the boots on the ground trying to create engagement. Our main focus is just meeting people where they are in their DE&I journey, creating spaces where we can have conversations.”
This year: In 2022, Pella’s DE&I-focused events will be fewer but hopefully even more effective.
- Among the planned activities are lunch-and-learn sessions and a months-long bingo-like challenge that lets employees track everyday positive behaviors, such as thanking a coworker or donating the amount of a “give-up” item.
- At the end of the challenge, Pella will match employee donations.
The last word: “We’ve learned some people like to track their progress, those day-to-day achievements, whereas some people would rather absorb content in a lunch-and-learn or partake in an activity,” Creger said.
“We know our people are unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so we do our best to create diversity in our outreach. Inclusion to Pella means our people feel comfortable showing up to work as their authentic self and belong as a valued team member. That intent holds true no matter our approach. We aim to get that message right each time, and let the rest vary.”
The Manufacturing Institute’s 10th annual STEP Ahead Awards took place in Washington, D.C., last week, honoring some of the most impressive and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry today. The Awards are part of the STEP Ahead program, which is designed to help advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production.
- The event highlighted the 2022 STEP Ahead Honorees (100 women who are leaders in manufacturing) and the 2022 STEP Ahead Emerging Leaders (30 women under 30 years old who have already had a significant impact on the industry).
The awards ceremony took place on Thursday night, with hundreds of guests in attendance at the National Building Museum and hundreds more viewing the ceremony online. The program featured:
- 2022 STEP Chair and former 3M Senior Vice President Denise Rutherford;
- 2022 STEP Vice Chair and Cornerstone Building Brands President and CEO Rose Lee;
- MI President Carolyn Lee;
- MI Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Inclusion AJ Jorgenson; and
- NAM President and CEO and MI Board Chair Jay Timmons.
Sponsors included an all-star roster of manufacturers, including Arconic Foundation, BASF Corporation, Cornerstone Building Brands, PTC, Trane Technologies, ABB, Molson Coors, Novelis, Rockwell Automation, SABIC, Sherwin-Williams and Toyota.
What they said: Carolyn Lee lauded the Honorees and spoke about the importance of closing the skills gap by bringing more women into the manufacturing industry.
- “My hope is that 10 years down the line, when we meet here for the 20th anniversary of these awards, the young women we will honor won’t have even heard of the glass ceiling, because it’ll be ancient history,” said Lee.
- “And that will be thanks to the support system, the mentorship and the sterling examples set by the women in this room and the support from our allies.”
Rutherford spoke about leaders’ opportunities to work together to make important progress.
- “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that being a great leader, as an individual or as a company, means that we don’t go it alone,” said Rutherford. “True change only happens when we work together as trusted allies, advocates and sponsors.”
Rose Lee laid out the qualities that all the Honorees showed and highlighted their shared successes.
- “The STEP Ahead Awards recognize women in science, technology, engineering and production who exemplify leadership within their companies and within their communities,” said Lee. “Tonight is their night to celebrate their accomplishments.”
Timmons praised the STEP Honorees and called on allies to continue supporting women in the manufacturing industry.
- “Your achievements, your success and your dedication are showing women what’s possible in manufacturing,” he said. “If you can see it, you know you can be it.”
35×30: Carolyn Lee and Jorgenson spoke about the 35×30 initiative—a program designed to close the skills and talent gap in manufacturing by adding half a million women workers to the industry, increasing women’s representation in manufacturing from 29% today to 35% by 2030.
- The campaign will train more than 1,000 women mentors, build new tools and resources and work with manufacturing leaders to deploy proven strategies to attract and retain female talent.
- It will also support young women throughout their education by offering best-in-class leadership development programming and creating a STEP alumnae-funded scholarship.
- “Tonight, we are done with waiting for other leaders to ‘change things,’ to make society better, more equitable,” said Jorgenson. “We are the leaders. So, tonight, we ask you to join us, to lead.”
New commitments: To help this new initiative along its way, Arconic Foundation President Ryan Kish and Ketchie CEO Courtney Silver stood up during the ceremony to pledge new financial commitments to the program.
The last word: The gala featured a stellar musical performance by award-winning singer–songwriter Rachel Platten, which left not a dry eye in the house. Inspired by the women of STEP, she surprised the audience by singing a new song she’d written for her daughters. It captures what the women leaders of today want to tell the girls who will someday be their heirs:
Girls, you were born to run. To reach the stars and chase the sun.
Girls, you’re wild and free. The wind is at your back, the world is at your feet.
As job recruiters rush back to campuses and career fairs nationwide, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s Creators Wanted Tour Live continued to help manufacturers stand out in the competitive labor market this week in Freeport, Texas.
The reach: The three-day tour stop, presented by Creators Wanted Legacy Sponsor Dow, drew more than 800 students to Brazosport ISD’s new Career and Technical Education Center.
- More than 25,000 students and career mentors signed up online to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
- Students came from all over the area, including from Brazoswood, Angleton, Brazosport, Columbia and Sweeny High Schools.
Who’s who: Students and teachers got access to top industry leaders, including:
- Dow Senior Vice President of Operations, Manufacturing and Engineering John Sampson;
- Dow Vice President of Operations for the Gulf Coast Fernando Signorini;
- Cornerstone Building Brands Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Katy Theroux;
- Dow Plants A&B Manufacturing Director for Texas Operations Sharon Hulgan; and
- BASF Corporation Vice President of Operations, Polyamide & Precursors Deborah McKitten.
These leaders joined creators at their companies, as well as team members at Fluor Corporation, on livestreamed panels throughout the stop to discuss their career journeys and offer advice to students. Here are some of the themes of the event.
Inclusion and diversity: Manufacturing is “for all,” said Dow Associate Research & Development Director Kalyani Martinelango during a Creators Panel on inclusion, diversity and equity.
- She continued: “For Dow to be competitive, we need to be inclusive. And it’s not just about diversity of gender or race … but thought, too. We have to be passionate about inclusion because it’s the right thing to do.”
Change the world, live a good life: Panelists uniformly agreed that manufacturing careers offer significant benefits.
- From making sustainable products to driving innovations to advancing decarbonization to earning great pay, industry careers offer a lot.
- “Manufacturing is an awesome [career] option,” said Hulgan, who oversees two plants in the company’s Texas operations. “They’re in the top 10% of income earners. … This is the place to be if you like to have a nice lifestyle.”
Calling all women: Women shouldn’t hesitate to jump into manufacturing, the panelists advised.
- Manufacturing “is a male-dominated industry, yes,” said Dow Texas Operations Apprentice Leader for the United States Natalia Muniz Rivera. “However, we’re changing that. … Don’t be shy. Get yourself up. This diversity is what makes the future better.”
Meanwhile, the teacher- and student-endorsed immersive experience continued to win accolades.
- One student said, “They made this [in] an actual fun and interactive way so that people can get interested and into manufacturing.”
- Students repeatedly confirmed that the experience changed their perceptions and increased their interest in manufacturing careers.
Activities galore: It wasn’t just Dow that brought the A-team and A-game, complete with a robotic dog and lizard, to excite students.
- Chart Industries and Turner Industries brought team members to answer student questions and help them explore manufacturing in their own backyards.
- Brazosport College helped students chart the next steps in their career processes.
- And FactoryFix was on hand to provide pathways to career coaching and job opportunities.
What young people are saying: In surveys and testimonials, one point came across clearly to prospective manufacturers.
- “It’s definitely a lucrative field to be a part of,” said Dow apprentice Chris Thurman.
- Dow apprentice Anna Green reinforced the point, pointing out that she worked with a good many people who received two-year degrees at Brazosport College and “are making six figures a year.”
The last word: “Creators Wanted shows the variety of opportunities available,” Brazosport ISD Superintendent Dan Massey told The Facts Newspaper (subscription). “There is something to meet the needs of every single student. That’s what’s amazing about this event.”
What’s next? Creators Wanted is working on securing additional financial commitments to finalize a fall tour schedule and reach more students and communities. Email [email protected] if you are interested in supporting the campaign.