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Manufacturing Day: Changing People’s Perceptions

Students in a manufacturing facility
Credit: iStock/supersizer

Manufacturing Day, or MFG Day, has grown to mean many things since it was officially proclaimed in 2012. Some celebrate on the first Friday in October with an event at a manufacturing facility or a school. Others participate in a regional celebration at an events center. Some areas have a Manufacturing Week, with multiple touch points, while others celebrate Manufacturing Month.

No matter how it’s being celebrated, we can all agree that MFG Day is a great rallying point to change people’s perceptions about manufacturing and promote careers that depend on creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and technology.

MFG Day is an initiative of the Manufacturing Institute, which is the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers. Last year, there were more than 3,000 events with more than 325,000 students, parents, and community members attending. The MEP National NetworkTM has participated in MFG Day since its inception by hosting, coordinating and promoting events. It’s not too late to leverage this great opportunity and it’s a great time to think about how to take a more strategic approach to building your workforce pipeline.

Let’s look at a couple ways the MEP National Network has been involved in MFG Day.

New Jersey Makes MFG Day a Regional Celebration

One of the largest annual events is the “Made in New Jersey” National Manufacturing Day, which is sponsored by the New Jersey MEP and several partners. The event, which drew about 1,000 people this past year, is a state-of-manufacturing summit. It includes a robotics competition for high school teams, a statewide awards ceremony for manufacturers, educational sessions, and a trade show for sponsors to demonstrate their products and services.

It’s a true celebration, but it also weaves in economic forecast information and networking. The event attendees are a mix of manufacturers, educators, legislators and other stakeholders. It has proven to be a great vehicle to raise the profile of manufacturing and promote career paths.

The robotics competition has evolved, with high-profile event sponsors, a big crowd, and manufacturers excited by the brainpower on display while also getting a chance to meet, and begin recruiting, prospective future employees.

A big regional event involves a lot of work, but partnering with the right stakeholders helps share the heavy lifting and can quickly build momentum. For example, this year, for the 11th annual event, organizers are working with the U.S. Army to bring in veterans, there will be a breakout session for women in defense, and a session for manufacturers who want to be Department of Defense suppliers.

MEP of Louisiana’s Toolkit for Promoting and Hosting an Event

For those of you who already have an event planned for your facility, or are attending one nearby, there are ways to build your audience and better leverage the opportunity.

The MEP of Louisiana has a great toolkit for promoting a MFG Day event. It includes a series of social media posts that you can customize, sample press releases, internal memos to better inform your staff, and surveys for participants before and after the event to gather valuable feedback. To access the toolkit, you can reach out to the MEP Center at MEP [at] (MEP[at]mepol[dot]org).

They also offer up these tips to ensure your event is a success:

  1. Don’t assume visitors know anything about manufacturing. When the intended audience members do not have a manufacturing background, start by telling the story of how your company got started, what you make, and who buys your products.
  2. Be selective in what you show. You can’t show everything, so pick a few stops that represent key stages in the production process, give a good overview and offer a good view for the visitors. Use your team members who are the most enthusiastic about their work and are comfortable explaining what they do.
  3. Offer hands-on experiences. What can they pick up and hold? Is there something you make, perhaps a small piece, they could take with them as a souvenir?
  4. Clean up before your visitors arrive. No clutter, everything in its place, floors swept clean, a path through the shop is easy to follow. First impressions count. Let’s dispel the myths that manufacturing is dark, dirty and dangerous.
  5. Cater to students. This is your opportunity to provide advice about the kinds of careers that your company offers, and the type of training and educational coursework you seek when hiring employees.
  6. Put up a welcome sign. Shake hands with visitors, thank them for coming, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the opportunity to share your company’s story.
  7. Send invitations. Don’t be shy. Invite employees’ families, elected officials, potential customers, local media, and youth organizations and school groups.

Don’t underestimate the power of hosting an event (no matter how small) and telling your story to students, parents, educators, elected officials and community leaders.

MFG Day Website Offers Resources

There are many resources available from Creators Wanted, including a database to help you find a local event that works for you. There is also a comprehensive toolkit covering everything for hosting an event from how to market to using partners and local government agencies. To celebrate with the MEP National Network, you can also check out this list of events being held across the country and in Puerto Rico.

The MFG Day website, powered by Creators Wanted, offers tips on how to host an event for each of these formats:

  • Plant Tours
  • Community Events
  • Educational Events
  • Classroom Visits
  • Company Family Day
  • Celebrations

Contact Your Local MEP Center

Manufacturing Day is an opportunity for manufacturers to highlight what's taking place in their facility and to energize a future pipeline of skilled workers. Contact your local MEP Center to see how you can participate in MFG Day.

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