“Creators Wanted” mobile campaign inspires future makers



SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Manufacturing accounts for nearly 30% of all jobs in Illinois, but industry leaders also know there is a severe labor shortage. Illinois manufacturing companies posted nearly 125,000 new jobs this year, including 13,795 in the past 30 days. The Illinois Association of Manufacturers (IMA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) hope that new hands-on experience can ease this shortage and introduce job opportunities.

Almost every industry is looking for workers right now, and Illinois manufacturers said there are great jobs with growth opportunities. Their main focus right now is to inspire future creators.

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

“The manufacturers are clean and sustainable, high-tech and diverse,” Denzler said. “We need to share this message with parents, teachers and counselors, but especially students, because they are the future workers. They are the heart and soul of manufacturing.

Denzler said Illinois needs to attract more young people to manufacturing in order to stay economically competitive. There are currently around 800,000 manufacturing jobs available nationwide, and executives 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 searching,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Whatever path you follow, we have a place for you in the making.”

The “Creators Wanted” mobile unit allows students across the country to get their first taste of 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 that combine math, reading, and teamwork.

“If we can appeal to college-age students and get them thinking about manufacturing as a potential career, that really gives us such an opportunity to hire them after they graduate,” said said Denise Johnson, group president of primary industries with Caterpillar.

ADM and Caterpillar helped organize this interactive experience with critical thinking skills that approximately 650,000 Illinoisans use in their jobs every day. Company executives said educating young students about the opportunities of modern manufacturing can help guide the nation’s manufacturing workforce for decades to come.

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

The Capitol Office walked through the mobile unit with a small group of students from the Decatur area. Enthusiastic students were able to complete the entire interactive experience in 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Veronica Braker, senior vice president of global operations at ADM, said she was proud to support the “Creators Wanted” initiative and help students see themselves in rewarding careers.

“It’s an underrepresented community,” Braker said. “These jobs are rewarding and give them the opportunity to build the life they want for themselves and their families. When I think of DEI, it should reflect the community we serve. When I look at the demographics of the communities we operate in, we operate a lot, it’s important that our workforce resembles our demographics.

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 manufacturing jobs without a college degree. Lee said there are plenty of opportunities for young people to earn money while learning through internships or dual credit courses.

“We often talk about the fact that eight weeks of training could qualify you for a manufacturing job,” Lee said. “Then it’s a lifelong learning career to increase your salary, job skills, and mindset.”

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

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