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Weathering the Storm to Celebrate National Manufacturing Day 2015

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 marked the fourth annual National Manufacturing Day, and the nation gathered together to celebrate the industry. Established in 2012, Manufacturing Day was designed to improve the public’s perception about manufacturing, highlight the industry’s value to the U.S. economy, and showcase the diverse and exciting career opportunities in manufacturing for the next generation of workers.

Manufacturing Day is more than just a ‘holiday’ to me – it’s our golden opportunity to show the world what modern manufacturing is all about! I’m proud to say that Manufacturing Day 2015 was a resounding success. Businesses, associations, educational institutions and MEP Centers, organized and hosted events all throughout the nation. Many events were held in the form of open houses at manufacturing facilities for students, educators and parents to demonstrate the dynamic careers that manufacturing has to offer. In fact, more than 2,600 registered events appeared on the National Manufacturing Day website. And what’s even more impressive and exciting are the findings from the first-ever Deloitte perception survey conducted for Manufacturing Day. After attending Manufactuirng Day events, 81% of student respondents are more convinced manufacturing provides interesting, rewarding careers. In addition, 90% of educators indicated they are more likely to encourage students to pursue a career in manufacturing. See the news release and infographic for full details.

“Made in New Jersey” Event Recap

Weathering the Storm to Celebrate National Manufacturing Day 2015
Carroll Thomas speaks to attendees at the Made in New Jersey event.
When I first woke up that early Friday morning, I was disappointed to look out my window to see that it was still raining cats and dogs. I had driven to New Jersey the night before so that I could be there bright and early. I was nervous that people would avoid traveling and reluctantly miss this very special event.This year, I had the privilege of celebrating in New Jersey. The Garden State’s MEP Center, the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc. (NJMEP), hosts an annual “Made in New Jersey” Event in celebration of National Manufacturing Day.

But to true form, manufacturers were prepared to weather the storm. The “Made in New Jersey” Event has to be one of the most successful Manufacturing Day-related events, with 400+ attendees gathered from 7:30am – 12:00pm, keynote speeches, panel discussion, networking opportunities, and an awards ceremony. Rain or shine, manufacturers were excited, geared up and ready to go!

Keynote Speeches

John W. Kennedy, CEO & President of NJMEP welcomed the crowd and explained the significance of Manufacturing Day. He provided poignant remarks about how important it is for our community to work together to advance our industry’s goals.

I was very honored to be asked by NJMEP to serve as one of the keynote speakers for the event. I used the opportunity to convey my strong belief that manufacturing is all about people, and how important it is to tell people considering careers that manufacturing had changed for the better and to encourage our youth to pursue a career in this industry.

Dennis Bone, Director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State, took the stage to celebrate the role of emerging technology in manufacturing, specifically 3D printing / additive manufacturing. U.S. Senator Cory Booker additionally hailed the New Jersey manufacturing sector in a taped video for the event.

Panel Discussions

Two panel discussions addressed critical topics within the manufacturing community. The first panel, “Attracting the Next Generation to a Career in Manufacturing”, featured manufacturers with outreach programs to help recruit new talent, along with a Rutgers University student, Tarakshaya Bhati, who discussed his wonderful internship experience in manufacturing. I was so happy to have a chance to talk to him and his father after the panel to tell them how proud I was that he was reaching back to help other young people consider manufacturing as a career.

The second panel, “Case Studies: Challenges and Opportunities,” included manufacturing panelists who have successfully implemented improvement initiatives. The success stories covered a variety of topics including sustainability, innovation, business development and continuous improvement.

New Jersey Manufacturing Awards

The event additionally featured the 2015 New Jersey Manufacturing Awards. The winners were announced amongst the incredible group of nominees and were awarded for small, medium, and large Manufacturer of the Year, Innovator of the Year, and the Raymond Hopp Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence. It was extraordinary getting to meet the nominees and winners, and listen to the challenges that they had to overcome.

Networking Within the Community

One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to interact with the manufacturers during networking breaks. Hearing their stories and learning about the products that they create was a profound experience. A personal highlight was meeting with current STEM students considering career paths in manufacturing.

Looking Ahead

It’s been an exciting time for us here at MEP reading all of the Manufacturing Day success stories, and it confirms my optimism for the future. Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent almost 99% of manufacturing in the U.S., and they will continue to grow through innovation. Let’s build upon the positive momentum from National Manufacturing Day 2015 and continue to improve U.S. manufacturing! Save the date for next year’s celebration: 10.7.16.

About the author

Carroll Thomas

Ms. Carroll A. Thomas, recently named National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Acting Associate Director of Innovation and Industry Services also serves as the Director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).  In addition to the MEP program, Ms. Thomas also provides senior leadership for the NIST Office of Advanced Manufacturing, Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and the Technology Partnerships Office.  For the past 5 years her efforts have mainly focused on the MEP National Network™ which  helps U.S. manufacturers compete globally by strengthening supply chains and helping them access new technology. MEP, with its $146 million federal budget and matched private investment, is a $300 million public-private partnership leveraging federal support by teaming with industry as well as state and local organizations to be the go-to resource for U.S. manufacturers. With over 400 manufacturing extension offices located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, MEP services provide measurable  enhance growth, improve productivity and expand capacity.

With more than 30 years of entrepreneurial and small business development experience, her accomplished public/ private sector career demonstrates her leadership expertise as a catalyst for creating innovative partnerships and advocating economic development by supporting dynamic innovation ecosystems.

Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Leadership Washington and a former Regional Director of the Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, DC. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Drexel University in Design and a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University in International Business.

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MFG 2015 was a great day! I participated in a few events but my favorite was at a local community college full of high school students who for the first time saw that there is a great future in building "cool" things. I think they realize that products don't come from Walmart or Amazon, they originate in the creative minds of people, are born on machines, and distributed to a global marketplace. It was a high school student who showed me 15 years ago the power of web-applications, and I'm glad to still be part of the cycle of inspiration. Looking forward to 2016!

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