Mobile “Creators Wanted” campaign inspires future manufacturers

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 6:33 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Manufacturing supports nearly 30% of all jobs in Illinois, but industry leaders also know that there is a severe worker shortage. Illinois manufacturing companies have posted nearly 125,000 new jobs this year, with 13,795 postings in the last 30 days. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) hope a new hands-on experience can narrow that shortage and showcase job opportunities.

Nearly every industry is looking for workers right now, and Illinois manufacturers said there are great jobs with opportunities to grow within. Their main focus right now is inspiring future creators.

Industry leaders hope the nationwide “Creators Wanted” campaign helps change the perception of manufacturing careers. Some people still think of manufacturing plants as dark, dirty, and dangerous. However, IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler said Monday that people have to change that mindset.

“Manufacturers are clean and sustainable, high tech, and diverse,” Denzler said. “We have to share that message with parents, teachers, and counselors, but more importantly the students because they’re the future workers. They’re the heart and soul of manufacturing.”

Denzler said Illinois needs to attract more young people to manufacturing in order to stay competitive economically. There are currently about 800,000 available manufacturing jobs nationwide and leaders hope to promote diversity within the industry through these interactive experiences.

“Some of you are going to start a job as soon as you graduate and some of you are going to spend more time looking,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Regardless of which path you follow, we have a place for you in manufacturing.”

The mobile “Creators Wanted” unit allows students across the country to get their first glimpse into the evolving industry. They can learn that manufacturers make everything from mining equipment and cars to medicine and food. The mobile unit has four escape rooms with challenges combining math, reading, and teamwork.

“If we can tap on students as early as middle school age and get them to think about manufacturing as a potential career, it really provides such an opportunity for us to hire them once they do graduate,” said Denise Johnson, the group president of resource industries with Caterpillar.

ADM and Caterpillar helped host this interactive experience with critical thinking skills that roughly 650,000 Illinoisans use in their jobs each day. Company executives said educating young students about the opportunities in modern manufacturing can help shepherd the country’s manufacturing workforce for decades to come.

“They go through that experience, they come out and they’re jazzed,” Timmons said. “And when they come out, they want to know what opportunities are available in manufacturing.”

The Capitol Bureau walked through the mobile unit with a small group of students from the Decatur area. The excited students were able to finish the entire interactive experience in 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Veronica Braker, ADM Senior Vice President of Global Operations, said she is proud to support the “Creators Wanted” initiative and help students see themselves in rewarding careers.

“This is an underrepresented community,” Braker said. “These jobs are rewarding and offer them the opportunity to build the lives for themselves and their families that they want. When I think about DEI, it should reflect the community that we serve. When I look at the demographic in the communities that we operate, we operate in a lot, it’s important that our workforce looks like our demographic.”

The Manufacturing Institute (MI) worked with NAM and FactoryFix to create the hands-on experience. MI President Carolyn Lee noted that people can get half of all available jobs in the manufacturing industry without a college degree. Lee said there are many opportunities for young people to earn money while they learn through internships or dual credit courses.

“We often talk about the fact that eight weeks of training could make you qualified for a manufacturing job,” Lee said. “Then it’s a career of life-long learning to increase your salary, job capabilities, and mindset.”

This “Creators Wanted” program will be at Richland Community College through Wednesday. There also is an online experience for anyone who can’t make it to Decatur. You can find more information about the virtual experience and manufacturing jobs by clicking here.

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