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Bringing Lifelong Learners into the Fold on Manufacturing Day

Oct. 2, 2020
The event skews young, but it's a time to open the doors to older workers, too--veterans, the underemployed and unemployed, and people looking to change careers.

Launched in 2012 and acknowledged via presidential proclamation nearly every year since, Manufacturing Day has become a mainstay show-and-tell event for American manufacturers to open their shop floors to students, parents, and policymakers in an effort to inspire youth and encourage them to aspire to work in the field. Traditionally seen as an opportunity for middle and high school students to visit and meet with manufacturers to peek behind the curtain and see what 21st-century industry careers are all about, this event has taken on added significance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many adults seeking new hope and opportunities alongside their younger counterparts.

Manufacturing, normally layered in trade secrets and safety codes, is often closed off from the public, allowing old black-and-white images to dominate the American psyche of what strange magic actually goes on behind those closed factory doors.

As an industry, it is in our best interest to quell the imagination and reveal the gleaming reality of current opportunities in manufacturing—most of which have moved from the hammer-and-anvil variety to that of a mouse and keyboard. This transition is what LIFT focuses on daily—the art of the possible in future manufacturing. Providing this insight for students and families is what the industry and our elected leaders were banking on when Manufacturing Day was launched, and LIFT is moving on this mission daily—from the first Friday of this October to the first Friday of next October.

It is critical that students and incumbent, unemployed and underemployed adults enter advanced manufacturing fields to ensure a robust and healthy talent pipeline moving forward and take advantage of millions of jobs becoming available in the manufacturing sector over the next decade.

At LIFT, our mission is to drive American manufacturing into the future through technology and talent development. We focus on connecting materials, processes, systems and talent to ensure small and large businesses have the workforce they need to move innovations into production to ultimately benefit the warfighter and strengthen national security.  From engineers to credentialed technicians, LIFT is doing our part to escort those eager citizens directly into that talent pipeline which will support our national economy and therefore our national security.

Since our founding in 2014, LIFT has leveraged the opportunity of Manufacturing Day to host hundreds of Detroit area students at our facility, where they interact with our technicians, engineers and leadership and see firsthand what cutting edge technologies and a national manufacturing innovation institute looks like.

Today, in the wake of of COVID-19’s impact on our country’s employment base, we are stepping up our training activity at LIFT to promote lifelong training and education, and we are doubling down on reaching out for community partners to help us connect with the future workforce across the nation. We are not just introducing middle- or high-school-aged students to the world of advanced manufacturing.  Rather, we are providing immersive educational opportunities for students in high school and beyond, including incumbent workers, and have developed special training and credentialing programs for our veterans leaving their military service with a veteran job placement record of 90%.

This year, amid the pandemic, we not only conducted our Manufacturing Day activities virtually, but we expanded outreach and activities to include students, teachers, members, curriculum development partners, vendor partners, manufacturers and stakeholders across the country. Some of the activities included:

·      Two virtual tours: one of our LIFT Learning Lab, along with Amatrol, one of LIFT’s training and curriculum design/education and workforce development partners, and a second virtual tour of our facility led by LIFT team members, followed by a Q&A session with Detroit area students and community guests. The tours provided parents, teachers, manufacturers, and the general public with a glimpse into the unique technology and talent development spaces right here in Detroit.

·       A job placement workshop with job search, resume building, and interview tips led by our education and workforce development partner, Miller Electric, to help those who may have earned credentials in manufacturing to earn their first or next job; and

·       Two webinars with the other Manufacturing USA institutes to propose a path toward a more resilient manufacturing base through a National Manufacturing Guard initiative.

LIFT Learning Lab Program Overview

With a mission to drive American manufacturing into the future, we know how critical the next generation of manufacturers is to our national security and economy. As such, the LIFT Learning Lab was opened in 2019 to provide advanced manufacturing education and training opportunities for high school students and adults. The Learning Lab is an 8,500 square foot immersive, hands-on learning facility for intergenerational students to provide manufacturing basics and help students, returning veterans and adult learners earn nationally recognized credentials. It also showcases the next generation of advanced manufacturing technologies through the digital twin experience, highlighting robotics, CNC machine operation, maintenance. and more.

LIFT talent development programs include:

The LIFT Learning Lab: We have partnered with the American Welding Society (AWS) and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) to provide nationally recognized credentials, and the knowledge, skills, and abilities to land one of the thousands of well-paying manufacturing jobs in Michigan and around the country.

IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing: A three-year foundational competency model for the multi-skilled technician. LIFT has hosted over 150 students daily in the Lab as part of this program, and is available for implementation in schools nationwide.

Operation Next: An innovative training and credentialing program providing a blended learning curriculum to active duty soldiers within their last six months of service, enabling participants to earn one or more nationally portable, standards based, industry recognized credentials in high demand manufacturing fields.

Thanks to the Department of Defense and CARES Act funding, Operation Next is growing to nine additional military bases across the country and transitioning into a private sector program in Detroit and Pittsburgh as small manufacturers recover from the pandemic. LIFT is also working to ensure the future manufacturing workforce is more diverse by participating in a new national project led by The Century Foundation (TCF), and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), to strategize solutions to the U.S. manufacturing sector’s national recruitment challenges to grow the pipeline of women and minorities moving into STEAM careers.  LIFT is working with national manufacturing entities and beyond to deepen relationships between employers and communities to forge a more demographically inclusive future for Americans in manufacturing.

As a manufacturing industry, we must look beyond the single credential or merely introducing students to manufacturing and provide opportunities to empower students, no matter where they are on the educational continuum to continue teaching and learning over the course of their lives and careers. In our minds, Manufacturing Day is every day—let’s celebrate it.

Kevin Kerrigan is vice president of business development, LIFT. Operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), LIFT is a nonprofit  public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense, industry and academia, part of the national network of manufacturing innovation institutes.

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