Robertson County, Tennessee, is a battleground—for companies vying for talent. With approximately 14,000 students in the school district, it’s a prime target for manufacturers looking to attract more young workers by shifting perceptions among parents, educators and students themselves.
What’s happening: The Creators Wanted Tour, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s effort to build the workforce of the future, kicked off its fall 2022 tour yesterday in White House, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. The stop’s premier event offered a glimpse of the advantage the tour gives manufacturers over other industries.
- “Our mission is to enable all students … to succeed … in a technologically advanced and culturally diverse society,” Dr. Chris Causey, director of schools for Robertson County, said at the kickoff event, calling Creators Wanted “a life-changing experience.”
- The stop was made possible by support from Dow and Honda, as well as more than 70 other manufacturing companies, including Tennessee stop hosts Electrolux and Schneider Electric.
The pitch and platform: Area manufacturing leaders held students’ attention as they spoke about the resilience of the industry and the reward of manufacturing careers.
- “Preliminary job numbers for August already show that Tennessee has reached its highest manufacturing employment level in over a decade—that’s over 360,000 Tennesseans,” said Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association, the official NAM and MI affiliate organization in Tennessee and key partner in the tour’s first-ever stop in the state.
- Tony Fraley, the Electrolux plant manager in Springfield, didn’t just trumpet the company’s new, $250 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. He explained to students that robots and cobots are increasing the industry’s need for technical skills, which enables workers with these skills to make “family-sustaining wages in a high-demand field.”
- “We have a lot of job openings, really good jobs,” said Ken Engel, senior vice president, global supply chain – North America at Schneider Electric. He highlighted the company’s advanced development program, where students “fresh out of college have a rotational program” to get experience in supply chain, logistics, lean manufacturing, marketing, finance and other disciplines.
The Creators Wanted experience: “The skills and technology on display here will help change Tennesseans’ understanding of what a manufacturing team does and how they do it,” said MI President Carolyn Lee.
- “So, for those of you who’ve gone through our mobile experience—did you have fun?” asked NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, causing students to nod in agreement.
- Hoping to spur more career exploration, he concluded with this: “Have you learned that you can make a lot of money in manufacturing, doing things you like to do? That’s just a taste of what our industry is about and what manufacturing teams do every day.”
Early returns: More than 200 attendees gathered for the premier event, including students from White House Heritage High School, East Robertson High School and Jo Byrns High School.
- During the two-and-a-half day stop, the NAM and MI expect more than 700 students to visit and more than 30,000 email signups by students and career mentors interested in manufacturing careers.
The last word: “To strengthen manufacturing’s competitiveness, we must shift perceptions among, and provide opportunities to, students, parents and educators,” said NAM Executive Vice President Erin Streeter. “This stop in Tennessee will provide them with an introduction to the technologies and careers that are defining the future.”