TMA Education Foundation: Focus on the Future of Manufacturing

There’s good news and bad news in the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) April 2018 report on manufacturing.

The good news: “Business is off the charts. This is causing many collateral issues: a tightening supply chain market and longer lead times. Subcontractors are trading capacity up, leading to a bidding war for the marginal capacity,” a transportation equipment provider reported.

Then the bad news: “Labor remains tight and getting tighter.”

Indeed. A few days after the ISM released its latest Manufacturing Report on Business, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the nation’s unemployment had reached its lowest level since 2000: 3.9%.

Manufacturing employment had increased by 24,000 in April 2018 – bringing the total up to 245,000 hired into the industry over the past 12 months.

While business for many manufacturers is “off the charts,” the inability to find skilled workers could be starting to slow what many hoped could be a unparalleled manufacturing revival in America.

“Production expansion continues; however, the index fell below 60 for the first time in 10 months. Labor constraints and supply chain disruptions continue to prevent or limit maximum production potential,” Timothy R. Fiore, Chair of ISM’s manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in the group’s April report.

Labor shortages are limiting production potential? The opportunities are plenty for manufacturing to grow in the current environment – even before the Baby Boomer retirement crisis hits its high mark.

“Employment expansion continues at slower rates due to companies struggling to hire skilled workers. Many respondents continue to see the labor market as a constraint to their production and their suppliers’ production,” ISM Chair Fiore said in April’s report.


Chicago area manufacturers foresaw the labor crisis years ago. They warned if the perception of manufacturing careers didn’t change and more quality technology training wasn’t offered, American manufacturing growth would be limited.

In 1987, the then-Tooling & Manufacturing Association established a 501(c)3 Education Foundation to address the issue. The purpose of the charitable organization was to:

1. Expand the pool of qualified entry-level tooling, machining, and manufacturing career candidates available to Chicago area companies;

2. Improve the image of precision metalworking and manufacturing careers;

3. Recruit talented men and women for challenging metalworking and manufacturing careers in the metropolitan Chicago area;

4. Promote and direct the establishment of a tooling, machining, and manufacturing technology training center available to students and employees in the Chicago area;

5. Reduce the barriers to training and encourage establishment of quality in-house training programs in Chicago area companies.

TMA’s Board of Directors sought to “announce in a loud voice the dawning of a new age in precision metalworking and the need for motivated, innovative intelligent young people to train for tomorrow’s careers – and the need for improved training facilities and programs in the Chicago area.”

First conceived by TMA Board Chairman Norbert Stengel, the Foundation launched a major fund-raising drive two years later, when Egon Jaeggin was Board Chairman.

“It was a proud moment in my term to raise $1.3 million for the Foundation,” Jaeggin recalled in a 2016 interview with TMA News Bulletin. “I had a dream in 1989 that one day TMA would have its own tech center and 25 years later, here we are…”

Jaeggin’s thoughts in 2016 were exactly the same as those he shared in his 1989 inaugural address at that year’s TMA’s Annual Dinner.

“I envision a TMA training center as a facility also used as a learning center in which our plant owners demonstrate various techniques of machining,” Jaeggin said. “With the Foundation as a resource, our opportunities to provide exceptional training and education – on all levels – will be endless.”


Jaeggin was right. Over the past three decades, the Foundation has been key in offering countless opportunities for companies, employees and gifted students to advance and update their skills and employment potential.

In addition to assisting TMA in constructing a world class training center, over the years, the Foundation has distributed over $1.6 Million in grants and scholarships to area high schools for vocational education programs.

TMA Education Foundation hasn’t just warned about the critical impending skills gap. It followed through on pertinent goals with priorities they set in the late 1980s to:

• Promote and direct the establishment of manufacturing technology training centers and to provide employers with in-house training program direction and assistance;

• Launch a dynamic electronic and printed media public awareness campaign to positively influence parents, educators, students, legislators, and public officials;

• Give financial assistance, through grants and scholarships, to students and vocational education teachers, and to provide industry advisors to education;

• Supply selected schools with state-of-the art equipment and improved facilities and to donate education and career materials to guidance offices, libraries, and classrooms.

The Foundation’s efforts continue through 2018, with plans to increase assistance as high schools realize once again the career opportunities their students could pursue in manufacturing and technology.


TMA Education Foundation Chairman Bob Clifford conveyed the need for manufacturing and technology training to be emphasized at the high school level when he visited the Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s applied education department in April. Clifford presented the school with a TMA Education Foundation check for $32,000 to purchase a second HAAS Mini Mill.

Clifford, who oversees Acme Manufacturing in Elk Grove Village, told the shop instructors, “As a manufacturer, I can attest – and please pass this onto your students – the skilled labor shortage out there is real. Our company right now has 25 skilled labor openings. We have 180 people in our shop. The jobs are out there. If you have kids that aren’t believing that, there are lots and lots of opportunities out there, and they’re going unfulfilled every single day.”

Clifford emphasized the skills their students learn with the TMA-subsidized machinery can set into action a rewarding career path.

Besides the $32,000 presented to Homewood Flossmoor High School, the Foundation has approved grants for other schools, totaling nearly $150,000 this year.

“The Foundation is considering more grant requests, and we could be announcing further gifts in the months to come,” said Leigh Coglianese of TMA’s Training & Education Department.

TMA’s Education Foundation has been doing what they can to promote manufacturing careers since 1987, but they’re limited as to what they can do to fill the skills gap only by the funds TMA members generously donate to the cause.

At a time when the industry’s production possibilities are exceeding what available workforce allows, the urgency hasn’t been greater.

For more information about the TMA Education Foundation and how to increase their impact, check out or email .

From TMA’s May 2018 News Bulletin. By Fran Eaton