A Message from Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee

The Manufacturing Institute’s reach and impact grew by leaps and bounds in 2021. We’ve taken our messages about the exciting possibilities of modern manufacturing to communities across the country. At a time when manufacturers are contending with record levels of job openings and the skills gap, we’re doing more than ever to build, diversify and strengthen the workforce of today and tomorrow.

Through strong support received from manufacturers last year, we scaled up our core programming and initiatives throughout 2021. The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), the premier advanced manufacturing workforce development and education program founded by Toyota and transitioned to the MI in 2019, launched nine new chapters and began building a new platform to onboard and support new and existing chapters. It was such a joy to be back at the National Building Museum to recognize women who exemplify leadership within their companies, communities and the manufacturing industry at our first in-person STEP Ahead Awards gala since the start of the pandemic. Our work to support veterans with their transition into the manufacturing workforce through Heroes MAKE America is growing, and with support from the Caterpillar Foundation, we Iaunched a fully remote training program incorporating hands-on simulations using virtual reality. The MI also introduced a new second chance hiring initiative thanks to the support from Stand Together Trust, to help manufacturers navigate hiring and best practices for those who have a criminal record.

The MI hosted highly informative summit discussions on diversity and inclusion, providing resources aimed at strengthening equal opportunity and supporting work to achieve the tangible actions sought in the Pledge for Action, our industry’s commitment to close the opportunity gap. We also did more to help manufacturers navigate ongoing challenges, particularly supply chain disruptions, with webinars, best practices and other expert guidance from manufacturing leaders of all sizes. We deployed a new offering to provide expert counsel to workforce, educational and manufacturing entities in regions across the country that were working toward applying for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Good Jobs Challenge Grant.

Working with the NAM, we took our national perception and attraction campaign, Creators Wanted, on the road, and it was a resounding success. The “Creators Wanted Tour Live” mobile experience traveled the country, with stops in Ohio, South Carolina, Iowa, North Carolina and Texas. We learned great lessons for 2022, and it demonstrated the impact we can have through firsthand exposure to manufacturing. We spoke with students, parents, teachers and community leaders everywhere we went. There were thousands of attendees at our tour stops, and the tour helped us reach and engage more than 150,000 people and counting interested in careers in manufacturing—a roster of future creators that we will connect with career resources.

Our industry will need to fill an estimated 4 million jobs by 2030, according to the most recent edition of the MI’s workforce study with Deloitte, but Creators Wanted and the MI’s work will help us demonstrate the many opportunities that exist in modern manufacturing careers with bright, ambitious and creative minds. Events like MFG Day are reaching millions, and we’re launching new tools like Creators Connect, an online platform that matches career aspirations with manufacturing career pathways, featuring interactive versions of creators’ stories.

I hope this report will give you a fuller perspective of how the MI grew its efforts to close the skills gap, undertook new initiatives to change the perception of our industry and provide even more actionable resources throughout 2021. On a personal note, I’d like to thank the MI’s Board of Directors, Board of Advisers and partners for their support and confidence in the direction we’ve taken the MI. Moving into 2022, the MI will be able to scale our reach to ensure a manufacturing workforce that is resilient to the challenges and prepared for the opportunities of the 21st century.

Thank you,

Carolyn Lee
The Manufacturing Institute


The skills gap and an inability to attract and retain talent are among manufacturers’ biggest challenges—and The Manufacturing Institute is leading the industry’s efforts to close the gap. The MI is the nonprofit workforce development and education partner of the NAM, and in 2021, it bolstered its suite of programs and initiatives, achieving lasting progress in strengthening and building the manufacturing workforce of today and tomorrow.

Manufacturing Institute logo

Innovative Programs

The MI provides an extensive set of impactful programs and initiatives designed to find, retain and upskill a talented workforce to build the future of modern manufacturing.

STEP Women’s Initiative

This is the industry’s premier effort to close the gender gap, and in 2021, the MI stepped up our work to support and uplift women role models in manufacturing. The MI supported employees throughout the pandemic via our women’s network and STEP Forward regional and online events and hosted an in-person STEP Ahead Awards event to keep the focus on closing the gender gap.

The STEP Women’s Initiative has directly empowered, inspired and connected more than 5,000 women and reached more than 20 million women, men and children.

I wanted to make an impact.”
Ashley Daugherty describes her career on medicine’s cutting edge.

I was 100% sure I wanted to go into manufacturing.”
Neha Phadke shares her journey from a small farm to a global manufacturing company.

We’re building the next generation of the space program, and that’s my day to day.”
Jennifer Boland-Masterson is sending us to the moon—and then Mars.

STEP Ahead Awards: Read more about the extraordinary women who led the manufacturing industry in 2021.

2021 STEP Ahead Awards


Heroes MAKE America

Our military and veterans initiative assists in the training and placement of transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses and helps them translate their military skills and experience to secure rewarding careers in the manufacturing and supply chain industry. In 2021, cohort classes continued without interruption at all four participating bases, and the MI launched a new virtual course. Thirty-one “Heroes Connect” events with a total of 721 participants assisted military job seekers in engaging virtually with manufacturers nationwide.

Heroes is now ramping up its efforts through a $2.25 million grant from the Caterpillar Foundation. This grant supported the development and launch of our virtual cohort with students from across the United States. The online class incorporates live instructor-led training and virtual reality–supplemented training utilizing Oculus headsets to simulate a “hands-on” learning environment and reinforce the learning modules.

The Heroes program has a 90% placement rate for participants, securing jobs at more than 250 companies in 42 states.

I said, wow, this might be for me.”
Hugo Hinojosa finds military values in manufacturing at WestRock.

I wish more people took advantage of programs like this.”
Zachary Willis gets a shot at a new career at Hodgdon Powder Company.

I learned an insane amount.”
Marsalis Leonard writes his next chapter at Georgia-Pacific.


Diversity and Inclusion

Manufacturers work best when we harness the skills and experiences of people in the communities we serve—and the MI has created D&I initiatives to do just that. The MI provides leadership, resources and expert advice to promote D&I in the workplace, including summits, webinars and best practices to help manufacturers attract and retain a talented and diverse workforce.

Pledge for Action: By 2025, manufacturers have committed to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color. In doing so, manufacturing will reflect the diversity of the overall U.S. workforce by 2030.

We’re already on our way; by the end of 2021, manufacturers had already identified or created 900,000 pathways. Take the pledge with us, and find more resources here.

Diversity, equity and inclusion have been our secret weapon…. Our commitment to put employees first and understand their needs allowed us to come together and stay operational during such a difficult time.” IPAK CEO Karen Primak, How IPAK’s Diversity Sustained It Through COVID-19



The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), founded by Toyota and now managed by the MI, provides global-best workforce development through strong technical training and hands-on experience to build the future of the modern manufacturing industry. FAME opened nine new chapters across six states in 2021, bringing the program total to 32 chapters in 12 states. At the end of 2021, the MI received a $1.5 million grant from the Educational Credit Management Corporation Foundation to build a FAME Academy that will provide greater service and support to new and existing chapters.

FAME Gets Results: A 2020 study by the Brookings Institution and Opportunity America found that the FAME program achieved 80% associate degree completion rates, and graduates earned nearly $60,000 in their first year of employment and nearly $100,000 in their fifth year—significantly better outcomes than traditional community college technical programs or traditional manufacturing apprenticeships typically achieve.

The opportunities presented to me…were once in a lifetime.”
Chaise Blissett turns his engineering interests into an active career.

I will always be able to find a job.”
Mollie Foerster gains experience—and a degree.

A Grant Boot Camp: In response to an exciting new workforce grant opportunity from the U.S. Department of Commerce called the Good Jobs Challenge, the MI conducted a four-month boot camp in fall 2021 to help organizations prepare competitive applications focused on manufacturing. More than 30 organizations participated in the boot camp, including five partners from the Conference of State Manufacturers Associations. The boot camp is an evolution of the MI’s work with The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and the Alabama Community College System in support of previous federal grant opportunities.


Second Chance Initiative

One-in-four Americans possess a criminal record, and manufacturers have an opportunity to lead in second chance hiring and demonstrate to other industries the importance of building a workforce that is reflective of the communities we serve. Partnering with Stand Together Trust, the MI is growing the modern manufacturing workforce while closing the opportunity gap, helping manufacturers welcome new employees who are ready and willing to develop their skills and seize the second chance for a promising career. Whether it’s encouraging and supporting community partnerships, hosting webinars and providing resource guides to manufacturers or putting it all together through pilot programs, the MI is taking the lead in demonstrating the importance of a second chance in manufacturing.

When we were looking for people to work overtime, come in on Saturday or go that extra mile, it was the second chance population that was saying, ‘I’m in.’”
See how second chance hiring is helping manufacturers succeed.

Want to learn more? Check out the Second Chance Initiative Resource Guide for the tools you need to explore how second chance hiring can support your business, your employees and your community.


Careers on Track

The MI is working with Union Pacific through a $3 million, three-year partnership to inspire youth and grow the number of women in the manufacturing and transportation, distribution and logistics workforces. Through 3D virtual experiences, Future Creators digital STEM curriculum, STEP events and micro-grants supporting after-school engagement for young people, the initiative is designed to inspire more women and youth—particularly girls—to pursue modern manufacturing careers.


In the Spotlight: A Union Pacific Executive Gets Career on Track

Being a young female getting into this career is exciting. It offers great pay, great camaraderie and the chance to learn a lot. You have an opportunity to see a lot of different places within the 23 states where we operate. Our motto is ‘Building America,’ and that’s exactly what you get to do.”
– Benita Gibson, Union Pacific

Keep reading

A Nationwide Campaign

Creators Wanted

The NAM and the MI are building the workforce of tomorrow. Half of the funds raised for Creators Wanted support the MI’s workforce development efforts into 2025, including initiatives focused on students, women, veterans and underrepresented communities. The other half supports online programs, digital tools and a nationwide tour designed to build the talent pipeline and lift perceptions around manufacturing among students, parents and teachers.

Big Goals:

Through Creators Wanted, we’re working to:

Reduce the skills gap in the United States by 600,000;

Increase the number of students enrolling in technical and vocational schools or reskilling programs by 25%; and

Increase the positive perception of the industry among parents to 50% from 27%.

Creators Wanted Tour Live

We took Creators Wanted on the road in 2021, including a cutting-edge, 53-foot, multiroom immersive mobile experience that challenged young people to bust myths, solve problems and work together to create their future. The “escape room”–like challenge was designed to inspire, educate and empower a new generation of creators. Meanwhile, participants were able to:

  • Meet creators making a difference in modern manufacturing today, get career advice and learn about the impact manufacturers make in their everyday work;
  • Explore demonstrations bringing to life how technology is advancing creativity; and
  • Access resources that match the interest in creativity with pathways to training, programs and careers to design and build a better tomorrow.

Making an Impact: The Creators Wanted Tour Live discovered next-generation manufacturers across the country, encouraging thousands of young people to consider careers in modern manufacturing. Together, we:

  • Took the NAM and the MI’s Creators Wanted Tour Live to Ohio, South Carolina, Iowa, North Carolina and Texas—with more than 3,500 attendees and 2,700 students participating in the mobile experience;
  • Placed a national spotlight on opportunities in manufacturing through tour events featuring elected officials, business leaders and local influencers at each tour stop;
  • Reached 138 million people through the Creators Wanted digital campaign accompanying the tour; and
  • Built an email roster of more than 150,000 people interested in future manufacturing careers.

This solid foundation allows the campaign to continue to grow in 2022.

Creators Wanted is made possible by these generous sponsors.



Our annual nationwide workforce event also advances the goals of Creators Wanted and helps show the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders. MFG Day 2021 featured virtual events alongside 20% more in-person events than in 2020.


Groundbreaking Research

The MI’s Center for Manufacturing Research publishes research and analyses to help our industry understand the current workforce landscape, react to ongoing changes and anticipate future trends. The center also partners with leading experts to produce cutting-edge, actionable findings. Highlights in 2021 include:

  • A baseline benchmarking survey with Keybridge Research on manufacturing D&I best practices;
  • A study with Qualcomm on how 5G is transforming the way manufacturers operate;
  • Employee retention research with the American Psychological Association;
  • Spotlighting the skills gap and manufacturers’ solutions in a 2021 Deloitte study; and
  • Examining the benefits and best practices of multigenerational teams with AARP.

Go deeper: Access all reports from the Center for Manufacturing Research here.