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.