Happy Manufacturing Day! The first Friday of October is nationally celebrated as MFG Day and, in Illinois, the kick-off to MFG Month! Manufacturing Month is the chance for us to celebrate and highlight the manufacturing industry’s many contributions to the state and nation. It is also an opportunity to build excitement about careers in manufacturing, particularly for the newest generation entering the workforce. Manufacturing today is clean, diverse, high tech, and sustainable. It is no longer the dark, dirty, dangerous work of the past that so many envision.
The manufacturing careers of today look a lot different from those of previous generations. Today’s manufacturing workers are innovators and entrepreneurs, creators, makers and dreamers. In Illinois, manufacturing workers produce mechanical parts that now orbit the earth on the international space station and build the nation’s first ever mass-produced all-electric pickup truck.
Manufacturers power homes. They ensure our store shelves are stocked with food. They create lifesaving treatments and vaccines, and led the way during the pandemic – staying open to make sure needed supplies were produced. The manufacturing industry is a powerhouse in our state’s economy, contributing more than $304 billion in annual economic output each year and employing more than 550,000 hard working men and women on factory floors in every part of the state. These are good paying, middle-class jobs that help anchor communities and strengthen families.
Manufacturing Month is also a time for us to take stock of the challenges facing the manufacturing industry and to get creative about ways we can solve those challenges. For manufacturers, we hear time and time again that their biggest challenge is finding qualified workers.
There are currently 800,000 open manufacturing jobs nationwide. But that figure is expected to grow if we don’t take action. Over the next decade, it is estimated that 300,000 men and women will leave the industry as baby boomers begin to retire. If we don’t fill those jobs, employers won’t be able to expand operations to meet increased demand effectively stifling growth and ultimately hurting our communities and hindering our economy.
That is why the IMA’s Education Foundation is excited to celebrate MFG Month. We want to build excitement about careers in manufacturing. The innovation and resiliency of manufacturers have helped bring amazing products to market and brought the nation through the darkest days of the pandemic. While brighter days are surely ahead, Illinois manufacturers, educational institutions and our partners in government need to invest in equipping our students with the skills necessary to take on the next great challenge of our time. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Education Foundation is proud to make educating Illinois’ students a priority.
To aid in celebrating manufacturers rand career exploration throughout MFG Month, the IMA’s Education Foundation is kicking off a statewide tour to bring together local manufacturers, business and economic development organizations and educational institutions to discuss the challenges surrounding workforce development and identify potential solutions.
The tour features stops at community colleges around the state, where the IMA will meet with educators, business advocacy groups and local manufacturers to discuss challenges they face and successes they’ve had in ensuring that students are prepared for the workforce of tomorrow. As the pandemic provides new insights into how we approach education, it’s an opportunity to rethink what a successful education means. While the goal of graduating from a four-year university is right for some, it is not the appropriate path for all students. Instead, our focus should be on providing the tools and skills that students need to be successful after graduation in whatever they pursue, and that they are able to live a well-balanced and meaningful life. A career in manufacturing can provide all that and more.
MFG Month and the IMA Education Foundation’s Education & Workforce Policy Tour is an opportunity for manufacturers of all kinds to introduce careers in manufacturing to students across the state, as well as an opportunity to highlight the public policy changes needed to support the industry and invest in educational resources.
Looking for ways to participate in MFG Month? The IMA Education Foundation is collecting short videos (90 seconds) to highlight employees and products found in Illinois manufacturing plants.
Send your cell-phone vides to Sarah Hartwick at firstname.lastname@example.org
today to have it featured on the IMA Education Foundation webpage and shared with students enrolled in CTE courses across our state.