‘Creators Wanted’ conveys urgency of manufacturing labor shortage through escape room at Dow GLBI

Dow Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Fitterling was kneeling down, helping young brothers Jack and Matt Brodhag navigate an escape room at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on Wednesday afternoon.

Specifically, it was a mobile trailer called “Creators Wanted Immersive Experience Escape Room” that encourages young people to explore careers in manufacturing by allowing them to exercise teamwork, communication and problem solving to find their way to the exit.

The fact that Fitterling, the leader of a Midland-based international materials science company that employs more than 35,000 people, was ready to literally get down to kids’ level and engage them in career exploration underscores the urgency of the manufacturing labor shortage.

Fitterling and three other manufacturing leaders – National Associaton of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons; The Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee; and Michigan Manufacturers Association President and CEO John Walsh – explained the drive behind Creators Wanted, a national campaign, during a brief media session in the Midland Country Club prior to a tour of the escape room.

The four shared some eye-opening projections:

• 800,000 manufacturing jobs are available in any given month in the United States.

• Four million manufacturing jobs in the country will have to be filled by the end of this decade, and 2.1 million of them will go unfilled based on current trends.

• This would result in a loss of one trillion dollars to the gross domestic product of the United States.

They also pose the question of how the United States get to the point of falling so far short of filling its manufacturing workforce.

One answer was that parents and schools began steering students more toward college after high school and less toward skilled trades and manufacturing.

“We need to let them know there are alternatives to college,” Walsh said. “We need to help students connect to training.”

“We devalued these jobs that should be held with pride and dignity,” Timmons said.

At the same time, the four speakers spelled out the benefits of working in manufacturing:

• The average manufacturing wage is $29 an hour.

• The average Michigan manufacturing employee takes home more than $82,000 in pay and benefits, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

“You can make six figures in manufacturing,” Fitterling said, adding that it’s an inclusive workforce. “Women working in manufacturing at Dow have been very successful. We have a military equivalency degree that we started last year at Dow. That has opened another pathway (into manufacturing).”

Facing a daunting labor shortage, manufacturing leaders are joining forces to promote the idea of ​​becoming a “creator.”

Creators Wanted is a national campaign launched by the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute to grow the manufacturing workforce of today and tomorrow.

“Today, manufacturing is the future,” Timmons asserted. “It was manufacturing that helped us through COVID. That set off a light bulb (and made people take a second look at manufacturing careers).”

Lee said The Manufacturing Institute has started an initiative called “35 by 30” that aims to grow the percentage share of women in manufacturing from the current 29% to 35% by 2030.

For their part, Jack and Matt Brodhag said they had fun solving challenges and taking the lead to help the accompanying adults break out of the escape room.

“We’re going to do it again,” Jack said.

The escape room is free and is open on Friday from noon to 4 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm

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