North Louisiana Manufacturing Month, hosted by the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) and the Manufacturer’s Managers Council of Northwest Louisiana (MMC), kicked off Oct. 3, 2022, and will wrap up in mid-November. This year’s event counted approximately 1,100 high school student tour participants from eight school districts in North Louisiana. Tour sites included 27 manufacturing plants and eight manufacturing-related training programs across the region.
NLEP began hosting this event in partnership with the MMC in 2014, and the reasons for doing it have only gotten more urgent. The manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, according to a 2021 study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers. The cost of those missing jobs could potentially total $1 trillion in 2030 alone.
“We regularly meet with our regional manufacturers, and without exception, they are greatly concerned about the inability to find skilled workers,” said NLEP COO and Workforce Program Manager Angie White. “This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global health crisis caused many of their older and highly skilled employees to retire, ultimately leaving companies with significant skills deficits. If we are to continue being able to support this critical industry in North Louisiana, we must proactively help them find and train their future workforce. North Louisiana Manufacturing Month is one way we are doing that.”
In addition to learning about specific manufacturers and training programs during the tours, all participating students and teachers receive a copy of the Manufacturing Month Magazine produced by NLEP. The magazine features employee profiles of young adults from participating companies who are currently thriving in positions crucial to the industry. A list of standard manufacturing job titles and a directory of training programs from across the region are also included. These training programs can prepare someone interested in the field to qualify for the well-paying jobs with benefits offered by the manufacturing industry. For educators, these tours provide excellent opportunities for teachers to understand how to tie classroom lessons in math and science to the knowledge needed in a manufacturing workplace.
“Participating in Manufacturing Month over the last few years has allowed our students to see what careers are available to them,” said Klint Robinson, Jump Start teacher at Saline High School. “The tours open their eyes to various levels of employment from entry to leadership roles and what level of education each one requires. The hosting companies answer our students’ questions, from salaries to health care to working schedules. Several of our former students have found careers through Manufacturing Month at some of the companies we have toured, and we look forward to participating in it each year.”
Career and technical education options for high school students in North Louisiana continue to grow, and NLEP hopes this program will inspire students to pursue manufacturing as a career. If they are interested in going straight to work from high school or continuing their technical education, the jobs will be waiting for them locally when they graduate.
“Alliance Compressors is always happy to open its doors to the students that join us for Manufacturing Month,” said Craig Caskey of Alliance Compressors in Natchitoches. “We love that we get to show them that good-paying careers in manufacturing are possible and available right here in north Louisiana.”