Looking Forward: Latest Ministers for Manufacturing Meeting Update

The faith community in the region continues to support manufacturing as a tool for social inclusion and sustainable community development through the Ministers for Manufacturing committee of the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council (CMRC). On June 21, the committee and stakeholders met at the state-of-the-art Manufacturing Technology & Engineering Center (MTEC) at Daley College.

The meeting provided an opportunity for Daley College, which is led by President Dr. Janine E. Janosky, to share information about the Center and its role in preparing students for jobs in the manufacturing sector. During the meeting, David Girzadas, Dean of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing at Daley College gave an overview of the programming and activities at MTEC. He detailed the certifications and class offerings at MTEC, along with upcoming events.

The meeting was followed by a tour of the facility at the 52,000 square-foot building , where students are prepared for highly-specialized, technology-oriented careers. The  Center prepares students to launch pathways in a variety of careers, including Sheet Metal Fabrication, Operations Management, and Industrial Maintenance. One example of how Manufacturing Renaissance has partnered with MTEC is that apprentices taught by Renaissance staff have used the MTEC training facility to learn skills that earn credentials from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

Meanwhile, Kari Williams from the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) shared information on their south side training and support center.

Conversations at the Ministers meeting happened at a time when there are numerous potential opportunities to advance manufacturing in the public sphere. On the national level, Manufacturing Renaissance has played a key role in building a coalition and campaign that is influencing the debate around the America Competes Act in ways that could bolster support for how the sector reaches underrepresented communities. (Last year, these efforts informed federal legislation on manufacturing that was introduced by IL Rep. Jan Schakowsky).

Federal support could boost industrial training, domestic innovation in the tech and manufacturing space, inclusion, and increased HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) research and career tech funding.

These efforts are also gaining support from the City of Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board, and can help encourage other cities to do the same. Meanwhile, on the state level, supporters for the sector can also voice their concerns in Springfield on Advocacy Day, which is expected to be held in September.

Participants in the event emphasized the importance of employers as well as the role of wraparound services from providers, community-based organizations and ministers and churches that support these efforts.

“What we’ve learned is that we can get placements if people have training, but the trick is helping them succeed,” said David Robinson, Director of External Affairs at Manufacturing Renaissance. Community groups and churches, he suggested, understand the challenges and potential of people in their communities.

Moving forward, a vital part of this process will be sharing testimonials and specific stories from ministers that share challenges and show that ”if you support this work, we can address some of these issues.”

Robinson also pointed to the success of the Young Manufacturers Association, the Renaissance’s program for young people who have gone through training or are working in the industry. When participants share their stories in this program, it brings forth the experience from people who need the programs the most.

Pastor Don Meeks of First Choice Outreach Ministries in Matteson, IL and a member of the committee, says that training young people in underserved communities for jobs in manufacturing  “is a good alternative to give our youth an upper hand in learning a marketable skill and help them with a career path that they may not presently have. It also deters them from other activities – like drive-bys, robberies and break-ins. Let’s give our youth viable alternatives to work for money.”

The Manufacturing Renaissance programs, he says, are “viable programs that make a difference. These kind of programs can improve our communities – and impact economic growth in a positive way.”

Meeks’ career has included teaching financial literacy and opening up restaurants. He also learned marketable skills as an aircraft mechanic in the navy.

“There are a lot of jobs out there,” he says. “We have to encourage young people to learn marketable skills. When they do that, it leads to learning other skills.”

-Dan Baron