The manufacturing work is shrouded in myth because of centuries-old images showing dirty factories and dangerous equipment. Luring new talent into a lucrative field means not only presenting clean and safe work space, but also ensuring that an extensive network of industry organizations is on one side in getting that message across.
The effort, originating in Cleveland, aims to increase the efficiency of these many moving parts and create opportunities for the industry after a challenging year of forced shutdowns and declining production.
Cleveland Production growth advocacy network (MAGNET) develops the America works Program to improve all levels of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a group of 51 organizations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, with 1,400 professionals in 375 offices who interact with over 28,000 companies annually.
The three-year initiative, which MAGNET developed with MEP partners in Missouri, Iowa, Indiana and New Jersey, provides employees with a central space to improve communication and programming.
The main objectives include creating a national database, identifying solutions to support staff development and coordinating MEP centers across the country. In the first year, special “nodes” are identified and created that focus on young people, adults, students and apprenticeships.
Matt FieldmanA webinar series of best practices in the MEP system is also planned for this year, says Matt Fieldman, executive director of America Works at MAGNET.
America Works will set up discussion groups on the ground floor to connect underrepresented populations with potentially lucrative manufacturing careers. Ideally, people of color, people with developmental disabilities and people who rejoin society from the criminal justice system will establish connections with network partners in their state or region.
Fieldman said the multi-state, multidisciplinary coalition aims to increase youth engagement in manufacturing while improving the training of current workers at the factory. Because the MEP system is hyper-local, America Works can respond to regional manufacturing strengths.
“Southwest Ohio has aerospace and northwest Ohio has food production,” Fieldman says. “MEPs can focus on where these opportunities exist to develop programs. America Works identifies and reverses best practices across the country. “
One way to get things done
America Works was formed with Fieldman, whose career in the private and nonprofit sectors has included helping get started EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute and the Cleveland Codes Bootcamp for software development. Discussions at MEPs conferences about workforce development laid the groundwork for the new program, he says.
“Whether in meetings or in the hallways, all that was talked about was the workforce,” Fieldman says. “How do you help companies recruit and retain employees? Which innovative approaches work in your community? For manufacturers, the aim was to achieve a higher quantity and quality of workers. “
The MAGNET team applied for and received a three-year grant of $ 1 million from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) In the Department of Commerce, the national home of the MEP program.
To build a modern talent pipeline, both companies and prospective employees need to be familiarized with new automation trends – the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, augmented reality and more. A national database, such as the one proposed by America Works, can stimulate these discussions while encouraging programmatic efforts.
“The goal is to create a single point of contact for who is doing what and where,” says Fieldman. “As if an MEP wanted to do youth programs, it could be included in this database and in all youth programs [across the country] would be there. “
Mary PacelliSmall and medium-sized manufacturers are vital to the Ohio economy. They account for 90% of employment growth for high-paying jobs Mary Ann Pacelli, division director for the Maryland-based NIST MP.
Pacelli, a former talent development employee at MAGNET, says companies are looking for ways to weather a pandemic-triggered downturn while emerging from recessions and other economic fluctuations.
“As we work with manufacturers, we identify what companies could do differently,” says Pacelli. “Then we help them find expertise, be it technology, process improvement or workforce.”
Through America Works, the Pacelli organization will assist with project management and the interconnection of MEP centers. The program is timely for an industry that is slowly recovering and is looking for a unified talent strategy.
“The word ‘workforce’ comes from every conversation with manufacturers,” says Pacelli. “It is important for these small businesses to have access to resources. I am glad that MAGNET is leading the program. “
According to MAGNET’s Fieldman, consolidating the MEP network will allow programming to continue organically even after the three-year grant has expired.
“We’re building these connections so that MPs can better share information and those connections get stronger,” he says. “There are best practices that we can share from industry to industry. This is not a think tank, but a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-things-done-tank’. “