There’s a lot of organizations and political leaders that give lip service to our companies as they seek something from us. Manufacturing Renaissance (MR) is not one of those organizations.
If you’ve met the MR staff like Dee Dee Jones or Erica Staley or Dan Swinney, you know what we are talking about. They not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. In 2000, they heard about the difficulties Chicago manufacturers were having in finding the talent we need to keep pace in the competitive global economy. Funded by the US Department of Labor, they documented the complete collapse of vocational education system in Chicago. They studied how the Europeans sustain their educational programs that support manufacturing. They developed a plan to address the challenge. And then they launched Austin Polytech which became the Manufacturing Connect (MC) program operated by Manufacturing Renaissance.
MC is not a typical workforce training program. It was designed to get young people to want to pursue careers in manufacturing and to help the public school system get realigned to the needs of modern manufacturers and introduce manufacturing as a desirable career for young people starting from inside high school. MR did a lot behind-the-scenes to get Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to embrace manufacturing as a program again. Since 2007, MR:
Raised the money for and designed the machine shop at Austin Polytech to be aligned with and accredited by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS);
Recruited over 140 companies to participate in the program – hosting youth for internships, facility tours, etc.;
Successfully placed 90 students into full-time employment at companies like ours with an average retention rate of a year;
Worked with dozens of teachers, administrators, high school counselors to learn more about manufacturing and the value of career pathways training at the high school level;
Funded the machining instructor at the high school such that 240 students earned 350 NIMS credentials; and
Successfully organized over 580 work experiences, internships, summer jobs, etc. for high school students.
Compared to what we need, these numbers are small. But there is no other program like this in the City of Chicago and few in the region who are working with youth to get them interested and supported to pursue careers in our companies. MR has also launched the Young Manufacturers Association that now has over 250 members—young people out of high school—with the purposed of getting more of them to see their future in our companies. Manufacturing Renaissance is also working with manufacturing leaders like us to secure legislation that will provide the funding needed to take this kind of high-quality program to scale.
We support Manufacturing Renaissance by making our own financial contribution. Manufacturing Renaissance is a not-for-profit company, so your contributions are tax-deductible. We need to back organizations that are promoting our sector, leveraging public resources to support manufacturing, and promoting the kind of education that can meet our talent needs in the future. Please be as generous as you can, or send your contribution to Erica Staley at: Manufacturing Renaissance, 3411 W. Diversey Ave., Room 10, Chicago, IL 60647.
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