Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog
On Oct. 2 – designated as National Manufacturing Day 2015 or MFG Day – more than 100 manufacturing facilities opened their doors to more than 5,000 students across Southeast Michigan, giving them a real-life look at what it is like to be in the manufacturing industry.
MFG Day is a nationwide event that celebrates modern manufacturing and seeks to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. MFG Day serves as a way to help students understand what manufacturing is and is not, debunking myths and preconceived notions, and educating students on the wide-range of skills required in these jobs.
High school students primarily from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties toured numerous manufacturing facilities from automotive to aerospace. Participants, who included counselors and educators, met with workers to learn about high-tech jobs and the type of training needed to land a promising position.
With support at a local and regional level, MFG Day 2015 was coordinated in collaboration with multiple organizations, including the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, as well as partners in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit.
Tours and festivities surrounding MFG Day stirred excitement: Students gained hands-on experience relating to potential career opportunities, for example, virtual reality automotive assembly activity using lightweight metals and demonstrations of virtual welding tools for production.
Connecting students and employers through opportunities like MFG Day is critical to sparking students’ interest in high-demand careers, but it is important to have ongoing exposure throughout the year so that students’ interest does not fade. MI Bright Future offers a way to continually connect students and employers willing to offer these exploratory activities.
MI Bright Future is a Web-based software that connects students and employers to provide hands-on experiences like job shadowing, mentoring, internships and apprenticeships that will immerse students in high-demand fields. There is a widening skills gap in manufacturing across the region: In the past year, there were more than 87,312 manufacturing-related job openings but only an estimated 15,822 individuals who completed training and education relevant for these fields.
Following the model of sites nationwide, MI Bright Future’s hands-on approach has been found to result in attitudinal shifts for students, such as feeling more prepared to make college and career decisions and realizing the relevance of their classes to their career path. This model has also been found to serve as an effective dropout prevention tool.
MI Bright Future is a partnership of employers, K-12, higher-education institutions and workforce-development agencies that are committed to bridging the skills gap and addressing breaks in the talent pipeline. The initiative will launch in four counties this fall (Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair), with the potential to reach more than 168,000 students.
Beyond MFG Day, MI Bright Future serves as a way to educate the future workforce year round. Working together, the Southeast Michigan community can support student career awareness, help them make better investments in their future education, and bridge the skills gap. Participating in this effort will allow companies to ensure that their workforce is future-proof.