Building the Future Workforce at Rockwell’s Automation Fair

Automation isn’t just changing the manufacturing industry; it’s enabling human-centric progress in tackling the industry’s workforce crisis.

In action: As part of the Automation Fair in Chicago last week, more than 13,000 attendees got to see how manufacturers—and companies like Rockwell Automation—are providing solutions to the shortage, which could reach 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, according to research from the Manufacturing Institute (the workforce development and education partner of the NAM) and Deloitte.

    • Rockwell Automation brought the Creators Wanted Tour, a project of the NAM and the MI, to its Automation Fair, giving students, parents, educators and manufacturers the chance to see firsthand how digital transformation and new technologies are supporting careers and opportunities in modern manufacturing.
    • The tour’s much-heralded immersive experience, along with displays and programs featuring experts from the MI and the Manufacturing Leadership Council (the digital transformation division of the NAM), gave attendees insight into the pathways and support available in the industry.
    • FactoryFix, the official recruiting partner of Creators Wanted, was also on hand to showcase its manufacturing talent platform for job seekers—and manufacturers searching for a one-stop recruiting solution.

Changing perceptions: Creators Wanted aims to shrink the workforce gap by dispelling myths about automation and attracting the next generation to manufacturing jobs. It’s seeing impressive success, MI President Carolyn Lee said during a session at the event.

  • “Today 40% of parents have a positive perception of manufacturing,” Lee said, citing a recent joint Deloitte–MI study. “And what we’re finding is that parents see these are durable careers with great possibility and opportunity, and they’re encouraging their children to consider them.”

Digital help: “Digital is going to help manufacturers deal with their workforce issues because it’s going to not only help change the perception of the industry, but create new jobs going forward, particularly in math-intensive areas like data analytics and artificial intelligence,” said MLC Vice President and Executive Director David Brousell.

  • Brousell cited the MLC’s “Manufacturing in 2030 Project,” saying, “We have to think about digital transformation as human-centric digital transformation—because we’ve got to bring the technology and the people together simultaneously to have an effective transformation.”

Impressive results: Since it began just more than a year ago, the Creators Wanted Tour has seen more than 8,000 students pass through its immersive mobile experience, where more than 75% of attendees leave with a significantly improved view of manufacturing.

  • More than 510,000 students and career mentors have also signed up to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
  • Creators Wanted has recruited successfully both mentors and mentees for the mentorship program of Women MAKE America, an MI initiative that aims to close the gender gap in manufacturing.
  • The Automation Fair offered more than 150 interactive sessions on the newest industrial solutions and best practices, and more than 200 companies exhibited across 200,000 square feet at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Media mentions: The fair and Creators Wanted’s presence drew a slew of media coverage, including from “Morning in America” with Adrienne Bankert, “The John Howell Show” on WLS-AM, Univision Chicago and suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald.

  • In addition, the Daily Line published an op-ed on the future of manufacturing by NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and Rockwell Automation Chairman and CEO and NAM Executive Committee member Blake Moret.

The last word: “As the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and digital transformation, Rockwell is always looking toward the future of manufacturing,” Moret said. “Campaigns like Creators Wanted are critical to recruiting the best future talent to create a thriving workforce.” 

This article was originally published November 22, 2022, on NAM.org. 

Creators Wanted Moves the Needle in Decatur

What went on: Over the course of three days, more than 800 students from 13 area middle schools, high schools and community colleges poured into Richland Community College to learn about manufacturing careers. Also present were many educators and parents.

  • Attendees “raced to the future” in the Creators Wanted mobile experience, solving various manufacturing-related challenges as they wound through the escape room.
  • They heard panel talks from manufacturing leaders and team members and learned about some of the industry’s many perks, including great wages, flexible schedules, upward mobility, chances to earn and learn and more.
  • Interactive activities, set up and run by manufacturers and the campaign’s recruiting partner, FactoryFix, were designed to garner interest—and display some of the real work done every day in modern manufacturing.
  • This included virtual-reality paint and assembly training from Creators Wanted host sponsor Caterpillar, as well as a hazard-awareness simulator, a drink-making station and a laser-system exhibit from host sponsor ADM. Richland Community College took students on a tour through its state-of-the-art lab.

While participants were having fun at this week’s Creators Wanted stop in Decatur, Illinois, the nationwide tour and its mobile experience were doing something, too: moving the needle on people’s perceptions of modern manufacturing.

Generation inspired: Manufacturing leaders at ADM, Caterpillar and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, which together brought the tour to Decatur, got the chance to galvanize crowds.

  • Said IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler: “Manufacturing makes the world a better place to live every day. Some of you are going to find the next cure for a disease. You’re going to build the next robot.”
  • “For anyone who really is looking for a career that you can get into that is good-paying, that will provide you an opportunity to progress, consider manufacturing,” Caterpillar Group President of Resource Industries (and NAM Executive Committee member) Denise Johnson told the crowd.
  • Following the event, students were indeed inspired. “It kind of changed my mind on what I want to do in the future,” one student
  • “It was amazing,” said another. “I’d think about doing this for a career.”

Shoring up the shortage: The lack of skilled workers has been a pain point for manufacturers for several years now—and it’s a problem Creators Wanted aims to fix.

  • “Programs like Creators Wanted are crucial in narrowing the workforce shortage in manufacturing and also showcasing the many opportunities within the manufacturing industry,” said ADM Senior Vice President of Global Operations and NAM board member Veronica Braker.

The impact: The tour stop made a splash in regional media, garnering overwhelmingly positive broadcast coverage and print mentions and placements (see here and here).

Meeting people where they are: “How do you get more young people interested in the field [of manufacturing]?” 25 News WEEK-TV anchor Erin Brown asked in a segment for the Peoria, Illinois, news station. “The answer could be more hands-on experiences with businesses like Caterpillar and ADM.”

This article was originally published on October 27 2022, in Input, the NAM’s morning email newsletter for manufacturing executives.

NAM Board Leaders Headline Creators Wanted Kickoff in Decatur

Two of manufacturing’s top executives took centerstage yesterday as a part of the industry’s largest perception campaign to build the workforce of the future—by helping educators, parents and other career mentors coach students on their career journeys.

  • Caterpillar Group President of Resource Industries (and NAM Executive Committee member) Denise Johnson and ADM Senior Vice President of Global Operations (and NAM board member) Veronica Braker joined NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO Mark Denzler and other notable state, community and education leaders to kick off the Decatur, Illinois, stop of the Creators Wanted Tour at Richland Community College.
  • More than 120 students from American Dreamer STEM Academy attended the kickoff event. (More than 800 students are expected over the tour stop’s three days.) There they heard manufacturing leaders’ perspectives before exploring the various exhibits and activations showcasing the many opportunities in modern manufacturing.

Power of visibility: “Not everyone has a perspective or has heard from someone who looks like me or is from the same place,” said Braker, who is also on the global nutrition company’s Executive Council. “But together, we can change one event at a time.”

  • “While pursuing my degree in chemical engineering, I interned with several manufacturing companies. … For me, manufacturing was always an attractive choice due to the fast pace, the energy, as well as the opportunity to solve problems while working as a part of a team, making a real impact on people’s lives,” emphasized Braker.
  • On the rewards of her own manufacturing career, spanning more than a quarter of a century in operations leadership, Braker pointed out, “I’ve made lifelong friends. I’ve been exposed to innovative technologies that will change the way that people and generations live forever.”

Teamwork and growth drove Johnson’s path into manufacturing—and an ascent to the upper echelons of the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.

  • “I was working in the design and engineering arena, and I was really wanting to move into manufacturing because I thought it would give me an opportunity to learn some new skills and be able to … work with teams and people to a larger degree.”
  • In a panel conversation, Johnson, along with Tara Tolly, operations director of ADM’s Decatur manufacturing complex, highlighted more of the advantages of manufacturing careers, including great pay, diverse career paths and roles, upward mobility, variability of days, earn-and-learn options and chances to lead and develop transferable skills.

Answering the call: “It’s events like Creators Wanted where we need to be present and active for our students and encouraging them to start early and get engaged with opportunities that offer rich and fulfilling experiences for them,” said Braker.

  • Braker and Johnson were instrumental in arranging the Creators Wanted Tour appearance in Decatur, in partnership with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, mobilizing not just financial backing but also team and community support to help excite the next generation of creators.

Why it matters: “Fifty percent of Macon County’s economy [where Decatur is located] comes from manufacturing … the single highest share of any county in Illinois,” said Denzler. “Programs like Creators Wanted are crucial for making significant progress in narrowing the workforce shortage … in manufacturing,” added Braker.

Beyond the campus: WAND-TV, the local NBC affiliate, covered the kickoff, and Timmons and Denzler joined Decatur’s top morning radio talk show, “Byers & Co.,” to amplify the Creators Wanted message. More than 500,000 students and career mentors have signed up to date through the Creators Wanted Tour to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.

This article was originally published on October 25, 2022, in Input, the NAM’s morning email newsletter for manufacturing executives.

Illinois Manufacturers Have a Job Waiting for You

By Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of manufacturers everywhere saying, “Creators and Makers Wanted.” That’s because the manufacturing industry is booming — and we need your help.

There are nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs open in the U.S. These are some of the best-paying, most technologically advanced and exciting careers out there. That’s especially true in Illinois, which might be called the epicenter of manufacturing in the United States. A recent study found the total economic impact of manufacturing in Illinois is estimated to be between $580 billion and $611 billion annually — the largest share of state’s gross domestic product of any industry. Manufacturing directly employs 662,298 workers but ultimately supports as many as 1,771,928 jobs, generating up to $150 billion in labor income for Illinois residents annually.

In all, it’s estimated that the manufacturing industry supports nearly 30% of all jobs in Illinois, making it among the state’s largest industry sectors.

But one of manufacturers’ biggest challenges right now is finding qualified talent — which is why it’s a great time to apply. Modern manufacturing is a state-of-the-art industry that has room for everyone. No matter what your professional background (or whether you even have one, if you’re just starting out), modern manufacturing has a job that will play to your strengths and pique your interests.

We’re looking for people who want to be innovators, entrepreneurs, builders and dreamers. We’re looking for people who want to solve today’s challenges — and then solve tomorrow’s challenges, too. In short, we’re looking for creators and makers.

Read the full op-ed, published by the Chicago Sun Times.

Creators Wanted “Lends a Helping Hand” in S.C.

Last week was a milestone for the Creators Wanted Tour—it marked the first time the nationwide initiative returned to a community and got to see how perceptions of manufacturing had changed since its first visit.

Welcome back: The Creators Wanted Tour, a joint venture of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, returned to host and champion sponsor Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation in West Columbia, South Carolina, in the 11th stop of the roadshow, which took place Oct. 4–7.

Happy MFG Day! On MFG Day, Oct. 7, Creators Wanted campaign co-chair Lou Kennedy, president, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and her team hosted the tour stop’s premier event at its new Nephron Nitrile Glove Factory. The 426,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open next month and will produce nitrile gloves used in hospitals and sterile rooms globally.

  • The protective-glove shortage in the U.S. during the pandemic inspired Kennedy to build the factory, which is set to produce 2 million gloves a year at full capacity.
  • South Carolina legislators from both sides of the political aisle were on hand for a tour of the site. House Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn and Republican Reps. Joe Wilson and Jeff Duncan joined hundreds of local students, educators, community leaders and manufacturers to view and learn more about the campaign and its resources.

Ready for the “boom”: “There is a manufacturing boom taking place all over the country,” Majority Whip Clyburn said. “We’ve got to focus on getting these young people prepared” for manufacturing careers.

  • As Rep. Wilson said, “The opportunities for manufacturing just can’t be better.”
  • “401(k), great salary—average wage of 75 to 80K—clean and beautiful working conditions and hard work with a lot of fun,” Kennedy said of jobs at Nephron, while extolling opportunities at modern manufacturers across the state and in nearby communities.
  • Major Creators Wanted supporters Honda and Trane Technologies also have operations in the Palmetto State, and several other campaign sponsors, including Chroma Color Corporation, are within a short distance of West Columbia.

More career guidance: Students seeking tailored advice about their professional futures got it from representatives of FactoryFix, official recruiting partner of Creators Wanted, who were on hand to meet and coach job seekers.

  • South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan, whose organization is a tour partner, was on site with his team to give students information on manufacturing opportunities in South Carolina.
  • On Friday, Creators Wanted sponsor Autos Drive America had an exhibit showing attendees the types of vehicles being manufactured in South Carolina.

Women in manufacturing: During a “fireside chat” panel on the tour stop, Kennedy was joined by Autos Drive America President and CEO Jennifer Safavian and MI President Carolyn Lee to discuss the importance of advancing more women in manufacturing.

  • “Growing up here in the deep south 20, 30 years ago, we were supposed to be teachers or … nurses; we weren’t supposed to be pharma CEOs,” Kennedy said. “And so, my goal is to help every young lady be what she wants to be, even if it’s the nontraditional career path. … If you want to be a super-genius chemist, you can do that. If you want to be a super-genius engineer, you can do that.”
  • Echoed Safavian, “I think the message [of Creators Wanted] is, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to try something. For women especially, this is a terrific opportunity. … A lot of people think manufacturing is dark, dirty, dangerous. It is not. … it is the complete opposite.”

Calling all veterans: Modern manufacturing is also a natural fit for those who have been in the military, speakers told the audience during another panel discussion.

  • “I started at Nephron as a senior system analyst, and throughout my career everything that I was faced with at Nephron I’d already seen in the military,” said Air Force veteran Eric Jackson, now a senior IT security analyst at Nephron. “So, I think the [military] training … is what prepared me for this job.”

The reach: The South Columbia 2022 tour stop, made possible by additional support from Dow, Honda and Nephron Pharmaceuticals, was a record breaker.

  • More than 700 students from 13 schools—most located in traditionally underrepresented communities—participated in the tour stop’s events. Last year, those numbers were 500 and seven, respectively.
  • This year’s West Columbia email signups—people wishing to learn more about manufacturing careers—brought Creators Wanted’s total signups to more than 520,000.

The last word: The tour stop may have been best summarized by one young student who attended the events. “Creators Wanted,” she said, “is a helping hand.”

This article was originally published on October 12, 2022, in Input, the NAM’s morning email newsletter for manufacturing executives.

Creators Wanted Inspires Students in Tennessee

If you’re a student or job seeker looking for tailored career guidance combined with some hands-on, immersive fun, White House, Tennessee, was the place for you to be last week.

National impact: The Creators Wanted Tour, a joint project by the NAM and MI, made its 10th national tour stop at White House Heritage High School on Sept. 27–29.

  • There, more than 700 students from four schools in Tennessee’s Robertson County went through the Creators Wanted mobile immersive experience, the award-winning, manufacturing-themed escape room–like activity in which participants work together to solve challenges in a “race to the future.”
  • They also got the opportunity to chat with on-site sponsor representatives from Electrolux, Schneider Electric and FactoryFix about the many rewarding, well-paying career paths available in the industry.
  • Local partners, including the Robertson County Economic Development Board, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, were also on hand to answer jobs- and manufacturing-related questions.

Calling all creators: During the Tennessee stop’s premier event, speakers underscored the need for more skilled workers to fill the millions of open manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

  • “Here in Tennessee, our industry has more jobs to fill than there are people looking for them,” Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Tennessee Manufacturers Association President and CEO Bradley Jackson said.
  • Speaking from firsthand experience about the many benefits of choosing one of those jobs was Tony Fraley, a plant manager for Electrolux. “I’m living proof of the great career opportunities in the field of advanced manufacturing,” said Fraley, who started at the company “running a process that coats dishwasher racks.”
  • “I grew up about two hours from here in a small town very similar to White House,” he continued. “I always liked math and science. … I hope that stories like [mine] inspire the next generation of workers to consider a career that’s not only been good to me, but also offers a strong opportunity to earn a family-sustaining wage in a high-demand field.”

The numbers: The Tennessee stop resulted in more than 52,000 email signups from people interested in learning more about manufacturing careers.

An eye-opener: Students had a great time at last week’s events—and were pleasantly surprised to learn just how many interesting options manufacturing could offer them.

  • “Creators Wanted made me excited about my future,” said one student.
  • Added another, “Creators Wanted made me think more about my future in manufacturing.”

The last word: It’s past time for manufacturing careers to get their due as the gratifying professions they are, according to the Creators Wanted Spotlight panelists (and manufacturing company employees).

  • Manufacturing “is definitely very rewarding [from a salary standpoint] but also the lifestyle that you get to have,” said Schneider Electric Manufacturing Engineer Zoie McFarland. “I get to go boating every weekend. I get to go hiking. I travel a lot. … Also, I was able to buy a house at 25. So, I think that is one major benefit—the lifestyle [manufacturing] gives you and the benefits that come from it.”

This story was originally published on Oct. 4, 2022, in Input, the National Association of Manufacturers’ morning newsletter for manufacturing executives.

Creators Wanted Kicks Off Fall 2022 in Tennessee

Robertson County, Tennessee, is a battleground—for companies vying for talent. With approximately 14,000 students in the school district, it’s a prime target for manufacturers looking to attract more young workers by shifting perceptions among parents, educators and students themselves.

What’s happening: The Creators Wanted Tour, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s effort to build the workforce of the future, kicked off its fall 2022 tour yesterday in White House, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. The stop’s premier event offered a glimpse of the advantage the tour gives manufacturers over other industries.

  • “Our mission is to enable all students … to succeed … in a technologically advanced and culturally diverse society,” Dr. Chris Causey, director of schools for Robertson County, said at the kickoff event, calling Creators Wanted “a life-changing experience.”
  • The stop was made possible by support from Dow and Honda, as well as more than 70 other manufacturing companies, including Tennessee stop hosts Electrolux and Schneider Electric.

The pitch and platform: Area manufacturing leaders held students’ attention as they spoke about the resilience of the industry and the reward of manufacturing careers.

  • “Preliminary job numbers for August already show that Tennessee has reached its highest manufacturing employment level in over a decade—that’s over 360,000 Tennesseans,” said Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association, the official NAM and MI affiliate organization in Tennessee and key partner in the tour’s first-ever stop in the state.
  • Tony Fraley, the Electrolux plant manager in Springfield, didn’t just trumpet the company’s new, $250 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. He explained to students that robots and cobots are increasing the industry’s need for technical skills, which enables workers with these skills to make “family-sustaining wages in a high-demand field.”
  • “We have a lot of job openings, really good jobs,” said Ken Engel, senior vice president, global supply chain – North America at Schneider Electric. He highlighted the company’s advanced development program, where students “fresh out of college have a rotational program” to get experience in supply chain, logistics, lean manufacturing, marketing, finance and other disciplines.
Photo by David Bohrer, NAM

The Creators Wanted experience: “The skills and technology on display here will help change Tennesseans’ understanding of what a manufacturing team does and how they do it,” said MI President Carolyn Lee.

  • “So, for those of you who’ve gone through our mobile experience—did you have fun?” asked NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, causing students to nod in agreement.
  • Hoping to spur more career exploration, he concluded with this: “Have you learned that you can make a lot of money in manufacturing, doing things you like to do? That’s just a taste of what our industry is about and what manufacturing teams do every day.”

Early returns: More than 200 attendees gathered for the premier event, including students from White House Heritage High School, East Robertson High School and Jo Byrns High School.

  • During the two-and-a-half day stop, the NAM and MI expect more than 700 students to visit and more than 30,000 email signups by students and career mentors interested in manufacturing careers.

The last word: “To strengthen manufacturing’s competitiveness, we must shift perceptions among, and provide opportunities to, students, parents and educators,” said NAM Executive Vice President Erin Streeter. “This stop in Tennessee will provide them with an introduction to the technologies and careers that are defining the future.”

This story was originally published on Sept. 28, 2022, in Input, the National Association of Manufacturers’ morning newsletter for manufacturing executives.

Shattering Records: Creators Wanted Has a Big Impact in Michigan

A record breaker. That’s the best way to describe the all-time high attendance rates, email subscriber numbers and other signs of surging interest in manufacturing careers brought about by the Creators Wanted Tour stop at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland, Michigan, last week.

Family first: The nationwide tour, a joint initiative of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute, marked its 10th stop July 13–16. This stop’s overarching theme: family, according to Dow Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Jim Fitterling.

  • Dow sponsored the golf invitational, the first LPGA event to achieve carbon neutrality, as well as the four-day Creators Wanted event. The company also recently more than doubled its commitment to the Creators Wanted campaign, to $2 million.
  • “You’ll see many, many families out here,” Fitterling told the audience at the tour stop’s kickoff event. “The reason we’ve got the family focus here is that it’s not just about students; it’s also about parents. 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.”

Shifting perceptions: One of the reasons that recent generations of parents haven’t encouraged their children to go into manufacturing? Misconceptions, explained Fitterling. But those are starting to change, he and other kickoff-event panelists said.

  • “Sometimes [parents and students] have perceptions about manufacturing that just aren’t current,” Fitterling said. “Creators Wanted is about … [giving] them a hands-on experience to show them what’s going on in advanced manufacturing today.”
  • MI President Carolyn Lee cited MI–Deloitte survey data showing significant recent growth in the percentage of parents who say they would encourage their children to enter manufacturing: 40%, up from 27% in 2017. “The good news is we are already making a dent on change,” Lee said.
The Creators Wanted Tour at the Dow LPGA Great Lakes Bay Invitational golf tournament in Midland, Michigan.

Just plain fun: For many of the attendees at last week’s Midland tour stop, “racing to the future” in the Creators Wanted immersive experience/high-tech escape rooms, meeting creators at Dow, getting career coaching tips from FactoryFix, learning about opportunities in Michigan with the Michigan Manufacturers Association and participating in all the other family-friendly events was as much about having a good time as considering a new career path.

  • “Having to use teamwork to exit the escape room and things like that, I find it really interesting,” said one student participant. “I take away that I could … have a career in manufacturing.”
  • In addition to the immersive experience, there were activities and games in the STEM Center, where “kids, students and parents or other supervising adults [could] see how STEM relates to not only sports but other technologies that can help us ‘imagine better,’” such as 3D printing, said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas.
  • The next generation of manufacturers were also welcomed to take part in “Friction Hockey” and “Binary Bits” experiments, which let them see how surface friction affects object movement and translate computer code into phrases using LEGO blocks, respectively.
  • There was also a fully stocked “Kid Zone” with miniature golf and a giant mural to which kids were encouraged to add their own artwork, as well as a “First Tee Junior Clinic,” hosted by the nonprofit First Tee, which aims to teach children life skills through golf.

Women in manufacturing: Midland was also the site of an important announcement from Lee during a fireside chat with Dow Senior Vice President of Operations, Manufacturing and Engineering John Sampson: Dow will provide a $500,000 grant over four years to support the MI’s Women MAKE America’s 35×30 campaign.

  • The campaign’s goal: to increase the representation of women in the manufacturing workforce to 35% by 2030.

Major impact: The Dow GLBI tour stop generated a lot of interest.

  • More than 47,000 email subscribers from Michigan signed up to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
  • More than 1,550 students, parents and/or attending adults went through the immersive experience.
  • Ninety-six percent of surveyed immersive-experience participants reported an improved view of modern manufacturing, and 72% of respondents who had previously described manufacturing as “dirty,” “dangerous,” “old-fashioned,” “part of the past” or “traditional” described manufacturing as “modern,” “innovative,” “high tech” or “creative” in the latest survey.

Just some of the mentions: Many media outlets covered the event, including the following:

The last word: The Creators Wanted mobile experience encapsulates what modern manufacturing is all about, said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who toured it along with Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud.

  • The experience “showcased … new styles of recruiting & making the safety, inclusion, creativity & technology the new normal,” Nessel tweeted. “The Creators Wanted interactive experience was so cool!”

This story was originally published on July 20, 2022, in Input, the National Association of Manufacturers’ morning newsletter for manufacturing executives.

“It Is the Future”: Creators Wanted Arrives in Midland, Michigan

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 isthe 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.

This story was originally published in Input, the National Association of Manufacturers’ morning newsletter for manufacturing executives.