Montez King, who joined the Manufacturing Renaissance board in March 2021, is Executive Director of the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS), the nationally-recognized organization responsible for developing national standards and competency-based credentials in manufacturing trades.
King says that being on the board of Manufacturing Renaissance is both a way to promote manufacturing and get back to his roots in Baltimore. Chicago, like many cities, resonates with him as a city where there is a great need and potential for growth in the manufacturing sector to benefit underserved people as well as companies.
“We must take this work to scale,” he says. “Manufacturing Renaissance has a lot of experience – and innovative and timely policies and ideas that can be put into place. Being on the board will be an important way to focus on policy, practice, and our continued emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion in manufacturing.”
“We are very excited to welcome Montez King to our Board of Directors,” says Erica Staley, Executive Director of Manufacturing Renaissance. “He is a dynamic leader in this field whose experience and ideas will help advance our vision of manufacturing and address issues on a national level at a critical time.”
King’s commitment to manufacturing reflects a nearly 40-year journey that goes back to his years of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s. He has forged a path that points to the importance of training, equity, and a modern vision of manufacturing – a path that reflects the changing needs of workers and companies.
Early path to manufacturing
King understands the barriers that many in underserved communities in this country face as they try to get an education and build a career. “As a young boy, I got caught up in the streets,” he says. “I didn’t know what direction I was going in, but I just made a decision to do better in school and learn.” At the age of 13, King learned about the importance of having a mentor at a school open house when he met Benjamin Webber, a machine shop instructor, who emphasized opportunities for black students and later helped King find a work-study job. “He told me at 14 that ‘If you keep doing what you are doing, I am going to put you to work at 16’ – if I could get a car. And he did.”
King started a job at Teledyne Energy Systems, which led to a machinist position at the company after he graduated from high school. At the time, he recalls, there were only a handful of black people working in manufacturing jobs at the company, which employed about 400 people. His experience showed him that he could not only excel at the job, but that there was a considerable lack of racial equity in the field.
“I used that as fuel,” he says today, “and focused on learning.” Once he got his journeyman credentials, in fact, he took a pay cut in other jobs just so he could gain knowledge by learning computer numerical control (CNC). At the age of 21, he worked in a few shops for about a year, then as a CNC programmer for Ward Machinery in Hunt Valley, Maryland. It was another chance to learn, connect with another mentor – and, once again, try to overcome the deep lack of equity that can pervade the world of manufacturing.
From there, he became an estimator at Kenley Corporation, an aerospace company, where he managed the development and implementation of manufacturing processes.
Learning and teaching
Meanwhile, King remained as hungry as ever to learn about manufacturing, and started teaching and training in the field. His career took him to the Community Colleges of Baltimore, where he taught an array of manufacturing courses, and Magna International, one of the world’s largest OEM automotive parts manufacturers, where he became Training and Technology Manager. Along the way, he received a bachelor’s degree in information technology and a master’s degree in adult education from the University of Phoenix, and a four-year apprenticeship in machine tool technology from the Community College of Baltimore County.
It was at Magna that King connected with NIMS. Magna had been using NIMS credentials in its trainings; NIMS board members toured a Magna facility and saw the curriculum and learning management program that King had been instrumental in building.
This experience led King to NIMS, where he became Credentialing Director and, later, Executive Director. His position gives him a chance to help elevate the impact manufacturing policy on a national level – while also staying close to the ground and engaged in the everyday realities of employees, communities, companies.
In 2017, he was appointed to the President’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. “Apprenticeship is the backbone of training,” he says.
King says that the last four years at NIMS have been about “renovating and modernizing our products and services – but also pushing change in our nation’s training system. That will hopefully mean that someday we have a system that is quicker to adjust to the economy and marketplace.”
A big part of change in this field, he emphasizes, should be a greater focus on diversity and inclusion. ”We can do this,” he says. “We must create opportunities in this country for people to learn the skills they need to succeed in the manufacturing sector.”