Changing the conversation to reveal U.S. manufacturing’s bright, solid futures

For the most part, manufacturing careers get a bad rap
these days.

The common perception is that most manufacturing is done on dark, dismal shop fl oors. The jobs are plentiful, but they’re not easy to get or even fi nd out about. And once a job is landed, they’re often seen as having shaky futures, dependent on politicians’ whims.

Those misperceptions are exactly what Lumen News — a production
company based in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area — said they were hoping to unravel when they took on the project of interviewing Chicago area manufacturing teams.

“My background is in manufacturing,” Tudor Dixon of Lumen News told
Impel, “and we wanted to feature different jobs, in order to expose high
schoolers to the types of manufacturing careers available.”

Tudor said she met TMA Education Foundation Chairman Bob Clifford several years ago, and reached out to him for help in finding the TMA members that would best represent modern day manufacturing. Local manufacturers had told her time after time how difficult it is for them to find skilled workers to hire.

“I keep in touch with local manufacturers here in Grand Rapids, and I hear from them over and over again that they just can’t get workers,” Tudor said. “We wanted to show how there are opportunities outside four-year college degrees for students and show them hands-on what the available jobs are.”

That lines up with recent news that there were more job openings nationwide in November than those on the unemployment rolls. Jobs indeed are plentiful right now, and manufacturing offers some of the best salaries and generous benefit packages for skilled workers.

The jobs are there. The pay they offer is getting better and better. It’s connecting skilled workers with careers and opportunities that is a challenge.

Private, home and public schools subscribe to videos with hope of exposing their students to the array of career opportunities.

The Lumen News fi lm crew visited Chicago area TMA members, including HM Manufacturing, Wiegel Tool Works, Pro-Mold and Die and Made to Measure.

Tudor said she got the impression everyone participating in the project was eager to show their skills and interested in explaining
their jobs.

“Some of them were nervous because they’re not generally the kind of guys that go out and advertise themselves,” she said. “But they all work hard, they understand what they do matters and goes out into the world as something that matters. They want to make what they make right and they take their jobs seriously. They’re humble guys (and gals) that want to bring more into those positions.”

Taylor Robida, who conducted Lumen News interviews with TMA team members, agreed with Tudor’s assessment. He said those with which he spoke were all very proud of what they did — a key element in long-term career satisfaction.

“I found it interesting that while they realize there is still a stigma of going into the manufacturing fi eld, these guys were eager to show how cool their jobs really are,” Taylor said.

He said they made it clear they were pleased what they were making was part of bigger projects that could change everyday lives.

“Some were showing how cool their jobs are, even some involving robotic welding — robots they have to program in order to do their jobs right. We definitely found an eagerness to show off their jobs,” Taylor said.

Read TMA’s latest Impel newsletter HERE

Overall, the project of interviewing a toolmaker apprentice, a mold maker, a metrologist and other manufacturing team members confirmed the Lumen News interviewers’ perceptions of manufacturing.

“I’ve spent a lot of time during corporate video work,” Taylor said. “In this project, it was good to see so many good people outside Metro Detroit that do the same type of work every day. It was nice to see there’s a commonality among Americans nationwide in manufacturing that fuels our economy and daily lives.”

For Jody Sellers, who edited the videos, mold maker Andrew connected it all together when he pointed to a finished project he had worked on — a dishwasher basket — as something Americans use every day. .

“Coming out of this series really taught me a lot about the variety of the manufacturing industry,” Jody said. “It was cool for me to learn what these people do that I was totally unaware of — things from medical devices to car parts.”

Tudor said she hopes more viewers spread the word about the videos and manufacturing careers.

“Our hopes are to teach kids what they really have in the United States,” she said. “This is a great country. You can choose your career. Our hopes are that these videos travel far and wide and we continue to have this go out on social media — and eventually reach parents.”

Parents, she said, seem to be ill-informed generally about manufacturing careers and are often the ones discouraging their children from considering careers in manufacturing.

“Hopefully, the videos will give parents a chance to learn more about these important careers. The jobs have good, solid futures,” Tudor said. “The jobs are staying here in the United States. Parents can know that if their sons or daughters choose a career in manufacturing, it can provide a good, long lasting life and career for them.”

This issue of Impel will provide an idea about the persons interviewed for the Lumen News videos. The videos themselves are available at or at .

If you have a friend or family member that is interested in changing careers or starting a career in manufacturing, get in touch with TMA at or by writing an email to

See TMA’s January 2019 Impel Employee Newsletter HERE.