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Manufacturing “Is the Place to Be”: Creators Wanted Wraps Up Freeport Stop

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 Creators@nam.org if you are interested in supporting the campaign.

This article originally appeared in the National Association of Manufacturers’ morning newsletter for manufacturing executives, Input.