Young Manufacturers Association: Update from Program Participants, Part 2

For Davon Hazelwood, learning about the field of manufacturing in recent weeks has been about learning specific technical skills, how to present himself in job interviews – and what the actual day-to-day activities inside a manufacturing company are like.

Hazelwood is participating in the Young Manufacturers Association (YMA) program, Manufacturing Renaissance’s nationally recognized career pathways program for adults aged 18-29.  YMA is both a network and a program for young adults who are pursuing careers in manufacturing, are in between jobs, or are in training or are interested in starting a career in manufacturing.

“This program is a strong example of how we can make manufacturing a pathway for good jobs and wealth creation opportunities,” says Erica Staley, executive director of Manufacturing Renaissance. “The stories of the young people in our programs show that we know how to make manufacturing work in a way that benefits all communities.”

The YMA program and the Renaissance’s Manufacturing Connect program for in-school teens are an important part of an inclusive manufacturing ecosystem that advances sustainable economic development in all communities, including underserved communities where there are often few training or job opportunities. This can be a system that works for young people like Davon Hazelwood – and for other young people and communities around the country.

In the last two years, Manufacturing Renaissance has played a leadership role in advocating for regional and national programs like these programs – and policies that can demonstrate how the sector can be a more active tool for community and economic development.

We talked to Hazelwood and Ladeja Williams, another participant in the program, to get their perspective on YMA. This is the second in a three-part series about YMA. Read the first part here.

Davon Hazelwood

This fall, Hazelwood completed an internship for the YMA program with Fast Radius, an innovative digital manufacturing company in Chicago. “It wasn’t really traditional manufacturing that a lot of companies do,” says Hazelwood. “It was more about 3D manufacturing.” He also shares his experience in the internship learning about a company that was testing out drones for deliveries. “They taught me a bit about how to use the equipment, and that drones can be a faster way to deliver some products.”

In the internship, Hazelwood also had a chance to perform a range of tasks, including cutting and blasting on various machines.

Hazelwood, who is 22, says he is also learning in the program about the social aspects of getting hired for a job, like how to talk to a company and who you talk to. “We started off by learning elevator speeches,” he says. “Going over that has really helped me build my confidence in front of people. You learn how to retain information about what you are learning, and keeping it in your head.”

On the technical side, Hazelwood shares how he learned about the mandatory health and safety guidelines as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. “I learned about what hazards to look out for when working with machines – and what is permitted and not permitted when you’re doing that.”

Hazelwood, who grew up in the Englewood community on Chicago’s South Side, says this is the first time he has had an opportunity to learn as much about the field of manufacturing. He says he is gaining perspective and insights from the program. “The world of manufacturing has a lot of possibilities,” he says. “Before I started the program I didn’t know what to expect. But now that I’m in the middle of it, I can see myself working in this field.”

Ladeja Williams

Ladeja Williams, who is 24 and lives on Chicago’s South Side, learned about the YMA program at a back-to-school event for her children, who are eight and five years old.

“I’ve learned so much – about measurement, working in a factory, building things, and tools I didn’t know about before,” she says. “It’s definitely about going deeper – even learning how to break down parts of a drill, about micrometers, and so on.”

The program combines remote learning with the in-person experience of internships and field trips.

Williams says her curiosity was sparked during a field trip to Dakkota, a manufacturer that is one of the largest Native American and women-owned and led companies in the United States. “They make car parts,” she says, “and when I see cars running, I just always want to know how companies make that happen. How do they make a car run, who comes up with ideas.”

She says she is learning a lot about the manufacturing sector. Williams adds that the program helps her in numerous areas, from the field trips and internship and learning specific technical skills  to how to prepare for interviews and apply for jobs. “I had never really had the experience of learning how to do interviews before,” she says.

Williams says she is pleased with how supportive the program is of students. “Staff with YMA talk to us one-one, and take time to answer any questions.” Still, YMA goes beyond all of that, she adds. “It’s also about being able to connect with people who understand the everyday needs of participants – like raising young kids, affording gas fare or other basic concerns. The program works with you to deal with your needs outside the program. Or if you need to talk to someone, like a mentor.”

“Yes,  I do see myself working in manufacturing now,” she adds. “I’ve worked in a lot of factories as a temp worker, but this is different. It’s making a lot of sense to me. Being in the YMA program gets us ready for good positions.”

-Dan Baron