How can manufacturing attract the next generation of workers?

March 25, 2020
Amanda Del Buono interviews Terry Iverson, founder of ChampionNow!

Amanda Del Buono is joined by Terry Iverson, founder of ChampionNow!, a nonprofit organization with the goal of changing the image of manufacturing in the eyes of the next generation of workers. They discuss attracting the next generation of workers and changing their perception of manufacturing as well as in their parent's eyes.

In line with the podcast, Iverson is offering 30% off his book "Finding America's Greatest Champion," here

Below is a portion of the interview. The full transcript is available here.

Amanda: You've started this nonprofit organization, you wrote a book, why? What do you see in the next generation workforce? And why is it important to you to shed the dirty, dingy stereotype of manufacturing in the eyes of the young people coming into the industry?

Terry: Well, I mean, let's face it, the youth are our future. And we have to pay attention to it and we have to do the best we can to be an advocate for our young people, at least I feel.

As far as the 501(C)(3), as I said, I was pretty deeply entrenched in the technical education. I found myself on a CT Education Foundation Board in DC, a workforce development and education board in Florida for about nine years. And so, I decided that I was going to try to change perceptions, that perception of our industry is really not the reality. And that's a big part of what's present today. So, you know, I'm on a plane on my way to Washington for a meeting, and I'm writing down C-H change, and then manufacturing and perceptions, and, as you can tell, CHMP, I'm like, oh wow, change how American manufacturing is perceived. And then the ION, in our nation, just kind of came to me. So, it actually is an acronym.

I started the 501(C)(3) in 2012. And then around 2000...late 2015 and 2016... I had started writing the book in 2013 and put it aside and then I decided to, you know, to jump back in and try to finish it. So, I realized that what I had already written was not really a book, it was more just ideas and thoughts and stories. But then I realized how many people that I knew that were really fascinating people, that were either friends or family or acquaintances. And I think, of the 50 that I interviewed in the book, I only had to really introduce myself to about 10 or less. And then, because I had done coaching and I believed in mentoring so strongly, and I also think we have a parenting situation in our country, that we could all be better parents and the way we parent in today's world is different than the way my parents parented, that we could better that. And so, consequently, I brought in people that had nothing to do with manufacturing but I felt could speak to those two components also.

Amanda: Why do you think manufacturing still has this negative connotation? Why do parents tend to not want their children in this? What has made this continue on with the technology advancements and things that we've had, what is stopping families, parents and their children from seeing that this is a viable career opportunity?

Terry: Well, one of the things I've said for a long time is that manufacturing has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and there's perceptions that have lingered for a long time. I graduated from high school in 1977. I didn't have a computer until I got to college. And even then, you know, they were teaching Fortran programming. So, you know, needless to say, technology has advanced very quickly. So, getting the word out and getting the change of what the reality is, is still pretty much a newcomer in terms of information. There's been a lot of media and a lot of press about companies closing down, which is valid. There's, of course, a lot of startups and a lot of reshoring. A good friend of mine, Harry Moser has developed the Reshoring Initiative.

However, the media and the government measures manufacturing in terms of employment numbers, and that's not the only measurement. That's the thing about numbers is you can look at numbers a lot of different ways. And it doesn't mean that each way is right or wrong, in many cases, they're all right. But, in order to really understand the impact of manufacturing in this country, it's not just about the number of employees that it employs. Because if you look at that alone, there has been a steady decline, probably from the 80s, early 80s on in a downward motion. But the reality is that this country's manufacturing economy, by itself, compared to other countries' entire economies, is the eighth largest in the world. So, it's still a huge component.

It developed our middle class, it's responsible for our middle class. And I often think about, when people start talking about our middle class and where is it and why is it suffering, they fail to realize it's suffering because manufacturing doesn't have the prominence it once had, and we need to get back to that. But I don't fault the moms and dads, and I certainly don't fault the students for not knowing. I fault us for not conveying that message. I fault the media. I fault the manufacturers, the industry members. I fault people like myself and that's why I try to make a difference.

Read the full transcript.

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