Submitted by: Vanessa Uribe Vanessa.Uribe@cookcountyil.gov
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President, and Sequane Lawrence, CEO & Executive Director, Chicago Center for the Arts and Technology (CHICAT) brought together manufacturers, educators, and workforce partners to discuss how we as a community can promote and connect careers in manufacturing to those with the greatest need. The Chicago Metro Metal Consortium is dedicated to supporting manufacturing in the Chicago region, with a particular focus on engaging the next generation workforce. This conversation was organized as part of the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table annual forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships, and inspire collaboration across the region.
During the conversation, participants discussed the current perception of manufacturing and how it is a rapidly changing manufacturing environment, requiring new skills and technology. Most of the discussion focused on how to promote manufacturing careers to young adults. Billy McFarland of Wilbur Wright College noted that students can be introduced to manufacturing as early as grade school through robotics competitions, STEM education, internships, or by connecting to peers who have already launched successful careers in manufacturing. Sequane Lawrence advocated a social media campaign to spread the message that trained workers can find enviable starting salaries without a four year college degree (and the debt that comes with it) in manufacturing. Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership noted that it is critically important to engage parents, educators, coaches and school counselors so they can provide support to those interested in pursuing manufacturing-related programs.
To continue the conversation, attendees brainstormed potential next steps, such as a STEM expo in Cook County and developing an “exposure” program at CHICAT. True to On the Table’s mission, when we come together as a community we have the power to impact lives and take action. Attendees left the event commenting about the good connections and ideas garnered at the event.