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When Manufacturing Day was held last year, the 1,600-plus educational- and instructional-based events carried out across the United States by companies small and large were together hailed as a significant victory for U.S. manufacturers and their efforts towards raising awareness about the modern state of their industry and its integral role in the nation’s past, present, and future success. After all, the sector, which accounts for 12 percent of the United States’ GDP, stands as one of the core pillars that define the country’s sustained, strong economic position relative to the rest of the world. As a result, expectations were running high for this year’s holiday, but they were certainly met. Even exceeded, perhaps.
In fact, over 2,500—a near 50 percent increase—manufacturers and related organizations around the United States held events both within their facilities and around their local communities on October 2nd, celebrating manufacturing in the United States while also diving into and addressing some critical issues facing the industry in the long term.
“National Manufacturing Day continues to grow and gain momentum, and we’re really starting to see its impact on both a local and national level,” says Ed Youdell, President and CEO of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, one of the key organizations driving awareness and participation for the holiday.
An American-Wide Effort
While events were held in every state, certain ones stood out as leaders for the day. “The state of Florida was by far the most active in hosting manufacturing events, with over 220 events held throughout the day.” He says that education groups like FLATE (Florida Advanced Technological Education Center) and MEPs across the state collaborated together in coordinating a high volume of events; a strategic approach that led to quite the successful showing.
The Midwest itself shined, with Michigan-based Whirlpool, for example, hosting tours, presentations, and panel discussions at its facilities as a way of providing as transparent a process as possible for those attending. There was also Iowa, that, perhaps surprisingly, had one of the strongest showings on Manufacturing Day. “The state of Iowa had a very strong performance, based on a strategy of hosting at least one manufacturing-focused event in each of its 99 counties, which was very impressive and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the state’s manufacturing sector going forward.”
As for Youdell, who is based in Illinois, he himself attended a number of events within his own state including particularly successful ones held by Chicago-based Freedman Seating, Elgin-based Bystronic, and Morton Grove-based John Crane, a designer and manufacturer for the pump and process industries, who gave a presentation and demo to a large group of students bussed in from surrounding high schools. “There was also a company called Termax, a metal stamping company based out of Lake Zurich, who at one point was down to 60 employees due to the recession, but now is back up to over 400,” he says, adding, “To see them succeeding at a high level again, and demonstrating their proficient capabilities to local students, some of whom could eventually end up becoming a part of their future workforce, is really what this day is all about.”
Youdell says that MFG Day partnered with Deloitte this year to conduct extensive surveys were also conducted with the event hosts as well as event attendees to determine in a more concrete manner just how much of an impact the national day has with respect to raising awareness and driving interest within the youth about a career in manufacturing. “The fact of the matter is that there is a looming skills gap within the manufacturing sector here in the United States, and it’s our job along with these companies to better reach and educate the younger generation to ensure not only that they have an accurate image of modern manufacturing, but possess the interest and necessary training as well to allow our country to continue to thrive in the face of fast-evolving manufacturing technology and processes.”
He says that they received 800 responses and will use the information derived to better gauge and structure how they approach Manufacturing Day and its success in addressing the modern day concerns and challenges faced by manufacturers in the United States. “As manufacturing itself evolves, so too do the channels and methods we use to communicate our needs and reach our audiences,” he says, adding, “Tools like social media, and now the use of surveys like the ones we are utilizing via Deloitte, have really allowed us to reach a much wider audience and manage their needs and opinions much more effectively.”
Another way technology played an important role during this year’s Manufacturing Day was through the use of virtual tours made available by companies like Alcoa (Michigan), Innovative Components (Illinois), Magna Team Systems (Ohio), Craig Technologies (Florida), and many more. It’s an important new resource because while the best way for students and members of the surrounding community to fully understand a manufacturer’s operations was to set foot in the actual facility, not everyone had the time or money to do so.
“Across the country there were high schools filled with students that were interested in learning more about manufacturing on this day, but didn’t have the appropriate funding for buses, or had schedule conflicts that prevented them from actually attending these events.” With virtual tours, however, students were able to experience many of the different activities that occur on a manufacturer’s floor in an interactive manner, and on the manufacturers’ end, it allowed them to reach audiences they otherwise wouldn’t have—a win-win scenario for everybody involved.
Although Manufacturing Day is completed, its success and impact continues throughout the year. As more institutions like universities, community colleges, and technical schools throw their hats into the ring as well, with efforts like modifying curriculums and increasing the availability of certifications at different levels, the resources and pathways for manufacturers to draw talent and fill their ranks in the future will undoubtedly improve significantly. Couple this with a greater degree of attention and investment being carried out by politicians and business leaders alike in recent years, and what you have is an aggressive public and private collaboration in the United States determined to not only safeguard but strengthen one of its most important economic sectors.
But for Youdell, who says the eventual goal for Manufacturing Day is to reach 10,000 events hosted on a single day within the next 10 years, it’s about taking it step-by-step and building on the large amount of progress that has already been achieved. “There is a growing level of dedication and commitment being made by manufacturers and their respective public and private partners towards combatting the challenges that lie in the not-so-distant future, and the amount of awareness we’ve been able to bring through concentrated events like Manufacturing Day has us extremely confident going forward.”