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Building Tomorrow Together: The Manufacturing Ally Rally

Updated: May 20

headshot Meaghan Ziemba

In an era where the discussion of the skills gap is far from novel, the Manufacturing Ally Rally is an educational event aimed at paving new pathways to prosperity and community support, bringing together leaders, visionaries, and advocates to address the challenges hindering the growth of U.S. Manufacturing. 

Everyone in the United States can feel the effects of the labor shortage. We’re really feeling it for those of us who are in manufacturing. I hear many conversations about the different causes of the skills gap. Still, I wonder what action items or best practices are there for us to consider when trying to recruit and retain the talent needed to build the workforce of tomorrow. 

I’ve discovered that the solutions to the skills gap will not be the same depending on where you’re located. For some areas, it is an awareness problem. Not everyone knows what manufacturing actually means or what career pathways are available. I’ve talked to several individuals who didn’t know that major manufacturing companies existed in their own backyard. 

In other regions, it’s a funding or policy issue. Not every community has the same type of funds to put towards vocational education or to support STEM initiatives. Furthermore, certain state and federal policies can really hinder what small to medium-sized businesses can do regarding production, automation, research, and development. 

I’ve also noticed a communication gap between educational institutions, businesses, manufacturing organizations, and communities. While everyone is talking about the barriers to entry, they all seem to be separate conversations, and there is little to no collaboration to find solutions. 

This was an observation I brought up in recent conversations with Chris Luecke, Andrew Crowe, and Toni Neary, three major advocates for U.S. manufacturing and engineering. Although each of us has our own niches that we focus on in the sector, we all have the same mission–closing the skills gap and strengthening the U.S. manufacturing workforce.  

One question that kept coming up not just within our conversations with each other but conversations we were having with other people was “How can I be a better advocate for manufacturing within my own community?”

Thus, the Manufacturing Ally Rally was born. 

The Manufacturing Ally Rally is an educational event to reshape the manufacturing narrative and provide attendees with best practices and action items to become better allies within their communities. 

“One of the reasons we’re doing this event is because there are many people in our industry that consider themselves an ally, have all the right intentions, but want to listen, learn, and make sure they’re taking the right actions to continue creating a more equitable workforce,” says Chris Luecke, Podcast Host and Community Builder, Manufacturing Happy Hour. “Allyship is not static. It’s an ongoing activity. We all have to do our part in each of our unique roles–whether you’re a podcaster like me or leading a team of people in a machine shop or enterprise–to make sure everyone has a chance to sit at the table.” 

Luecke’s words emphasize the collective responsibility to ensure that intentions are translated into meaningful actions, creating an environment where all our voices are heard and actively included. 

“This rally calls on us to build the workforce of the future–one where all who have the drive to learn new skills and work with their hands can access fulfilling family-sustaining jobs,” says Andrew Crowe, founder of the New American Manufacturing Renaissance Tour. “We know America overcomes division and hardship when ordinary people stand shoulder to shoulder. If you want to play a part in the next revolution in manufacturing, join us. By becoming better allies to marginalized groups, listening with empathy, and uniting our skills, we can emerge stronger and more prosperous.” 

Crowe’s passionate appeal speaks to the Rally’s broader mission of addressing the skills gap and dismantling barriers that prevent distinct talents from contributing to the manufacturing landscape. He sees manufacturing as a unifying force, providing not just jobs, but a sense of purpose and belonging. 

By actively supporting and engaging with a wide spectrum of individuals and groups, we contribute to creating an industry that reflects the rich tapestry of American society. The Rally will feature stories of successful individuals from all walks of life who have found rewarding careers in manufacturing, engineering, and the trades, dispelling myths and breaking down barriers. 

“The skills gap is not a new discussion, but the ways to fill the gaps and provide pathways to prosperity are,” says Toni Neary, Director of Community Engagement and Workforce Innovation at SME. “We are excited to share ways to support communities and the future workforce. 

With years of experience in workforce innovation, Neary underscores the need for dynamic solutions to a persistent challenge. The Rally seeks not just to acknowledge the skills gap but to actively contribute to its resolution. 

Beyond factory walls, the Manufacturing Ally Rally also emphasizes the pivotal role of education in shaping the future of manufacturing. Teachers are pivotal in inspiring the next generation. This event will provide a platform for educators to interact with industry leaders, exchange ideas, and explore innovative ways to prepare students for careers in engineering and manufacturing pathways.  

Moreover, the event will shed light on the significance of supporting non-profit organizations dedicated to serving communities. We can actively contribute to building a skilled workforce by forging partnerships with these organizations. The Rally will serve as the catalyst for collaboration between the private sector and non-profits, creating a synergy that benefits us all and, ultimately, the communities they serve. 

This event is not just an event; it’s a movement—a movement towards a prosperous future for U.S. manufacturing. By bringing together manufacturers, educators, non-profits, and communities, this Rally is forging connections that will lead to a stronger, more competitive America on the global stage. It’s a rallying cry for change, progress, and a future where everyone has a place in the world of manufacturing. 

Learn how you can become a better manufacturing ally and join us on June 20th, 2024, in Cleveland, OH. More details are coming soon!

By: Meaghan Ziemba

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Check out this article and others like it in our Empowering Women in Industry Digital Magazine.

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