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.
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:
- Creators Wanted Experience encourages kids to explore manufacturing jobs (ABC News 12)
- Creators wanted — opportunity abounds in manufacturing, a joint op-ed by Fitterling and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons (Crain’s Detroit Business)
- ‘Creators Wanted’ conveys urgency of manufacturing labor shortage (Midland Daily News)
- This is your chance to create the future, an op-ed by Michigan Manufacturers Association President John Walsh (Midland Daily News)
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.