Menomonee Valley Partners and WRTP/BIG STEP joined a new coalition that launched on June 24 by The Century Foundation (TCF), the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), and seven other urban workforce development organizations to develop training programs that forge a more racially inclusive future for manufacturing.

Concentrated in the Midwest, the partnership plans to strategize solutions for the U.S. manufacturing sector’s national recruitment challenges, while deepening relationships between employers and communities. The coalition, selected through a competitive process and funded by Lumina Foundation, launches this effort at a pivotal time for U.S. manufacturing and the nation as a whole.

As the country’s manufacturing capacity recently shifted to produce millions of pieces of medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight and recover from a deadly pandemic, COVID-19 has brought renewed attention to the need for a strong U.S. manufacturing sector. Pre-pandemic estimates indicated that the United States needed an additional 2.4 million manufacturing workers over the next decade.

“We are seeing three historic trends converge at once,” says Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at TCF and one of the organizers of the coalition. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a need for skilled manufacturing workers to respond to the crisis, and highlighted the importance of employer-focused, credential-based training. The resulting recession has created historic levels of unemployment, leaving half of Black workers without work. And a long overdue reckoning on racial inequality has underscored the urgent need to improve access to jobs that pay well and provide good benefits. Our coalition will work at the intersection of these trends to help shape a more inclusive future of work for manufacturing.”

With unemployment rates at record levels, especially for Black and Latinx workers, and a renewed focus on addressing systemic racism throughout our society – including employment – U.S. manufacturing’s rebirth presents a critical opportunity to open the sector’s good paying jobs to more workers of color. A new commentary released by TCF and UMA in conjunction with the coalition’s launch outlines 7 lessons for building a more just and inclusive manufacturing sector.

The organizations that make up the new Industry and Inclusion 4.0 cohort include: Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC; Chicago/Baltimore) provides high quality skills training and support services to help lower-income and unemployed workers achieve self-sufficiency. Its Careers in Manufacturing Program has placed graduates into apprenticeship programs in the trades and aims to increase the number of women and people of color in the unions, while its Business and Workforce Services program works directly with employers to customize career pathways.

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