Attracting Young People to Manufacturing

In this week’s The Faces of Business episode, our guest speaker was Mike Womack. Mike is the Marketing Project Manager at NJMEP. He is an experienced content strategist and writer as well.  Mike is an advocate for manufacturing and getting young people involved in the industry.

Young people aren’t generally prone to the manufacturing industry which is why attracting young people to manufacturing is always a difficult job.

In this week’s The Faces of Business episode, our guest speaker was Mike Womack. Mike is the Marketing Project Manager at NJMEP. He is an experienced content strategist and writer as well.  Mike is an advocate for manufacturing and getting young people involved in the industry.

The conversation of this episode started with Mike sharing about how he got into the manufacturing field. Mike shared that when he was in college, he did an internship as a requirement of his course. At that company, they only had manufacturing-related clients so he had to learn about it.

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This is when mike developed an interest in this industry. Moving on, Mike also shared how he joined his current company. Additionally, he said that when it comes to manufacturing, it’s such a diverse field that you can have jobs in any space of it.

Further, into the conversation, Damon asked Mike about his current company and also what is manufacturing to him. To this, Mike said that in simpler words, manufacturing is simple and yet wildly complex. Mike also said that it’s exciting to see how one little thing or process is a part of mass production.

Moving on, Damon also asked Mike that when it comes to attracting young people to manufacturing, why do you think manufacturing is a good career path for these people? Answering this, Mike said that attracting young people to manufacturing is hard, however, this field is different and has a lot of potentials.

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After this, Mike said that when it comes to attracting young people to manufacturing, the first step is to make them visit their MEP. Mike said that every area’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership is different and is the place where they can give their careers a kick start. Mike also further explained the MEP program in detail as well.

Further, Damon asked Mike that what are some cool places to work in New Jersey. Answering this question, Mike shared the names of a few companies. He said that there is union, there is rebel nail polish and Radwell International. All these companies according to Mike are perfect for attracting young people to manufacturing.

By the end of the conversation, a guest from the audience asked Mike if he was launching a trade training for the people who want to join the manufacturing community. To this, Mike explained the entire process of how he was launching the training and how to join it as well.

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The conversation ended with Damon thanking Mike for his time.

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Damon Pistulka, Mike Womack


Damon Pistulka  00:04

All right, everyone, welcome once again, the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. Just happy to be back. Today, I’ve got an awesome guest of the mike Womack from the New Jersey MEP


Mike Womack  00:20

doing Damon. Great. Thank you so much for having me.


Damon Pistulka  00:23

Yeah, it’s gonna be fun nation. Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. Because I mean, we we talked a while back when you’re on our manufacturing ecommerce success on our Friday show with Kurt Nye and and man, it’s just it’s great to see young people like yourself getting involved in manufacturing. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. And I know, this is this is October is the month for manufacturers manufacturing month, right? Yeah, yeah. So let’s, let’s start there. I mean, well, first of all, let’s talk about you a little bit, because then we’ll get into manufacturing. So tell us a little bit about your love affair with manufacturing and how that started.


Mike Womack  01:03

So it kind of by accident, I discovered the industry when I had an internship thing. Everything that my major actually made you take an internship before graduating. So yeah, I got a little work experience, I was working for an ad agency, I was going to school for new marketing methods, and thought I was gonna work at some tech company or some ad agency. And I ended up working for a small mom and pop advertising agency that only work with manufacturers and logistics companies. Oh, wow.

So of course, I had to learn the industry, I had to write the articles, I had to write the posts to connect on social with other other thought leaders or the manufacturers themselves. And it was probably by the second week, I realized how cool everything I was reading was about manufacturing. And I was growing up, they told me, I like make things with my hands. So when I was growing up, I wanted to do something with my hands. And my guidance counselor actually told me that all manufacturing went overseas, you got to look at some service business.

So it was about the second week, I realized, Wait, all manufacturing isn’t overseas, there’s a lot of cool things happening and making and technologies being used. One I was lied to. And I really kind of started connecting with the people, the passions, and the technologies that were modern manufacturing. And from there, I actually worked at a manufacturing facility because I heard my current CEO in NJ MEP, where I’m at now. Yeah, the New Jersey manufacturing extension program will give that full plug but I heard my current CEO actually say that he wanted to accomplish something in the press in April.

And I don’t even remember what it is. But it actually happened in November, I saw a news article coming out that progress was being made, things actually happened. And that that kind of shocked me. And I knew he would never hire someone that didn’t work in a manufacturing facility or knows the industry. So I started working at a manufacturer as their marketing manager. A great example of the variety of ways you can get into manufacturing.

Oh, yeah, yeah, well, and then I had an opportunity to enter into NJ MEP, where I was able to really kind of hone in utilize the marketing knowledge I had to help advance the industry as a whole connect through advocacy, promotion of, of modern manufacturing and what it is get into the facilities and engage with the actual manufacturers. And I’ve loved it ever since. I mean, since then I realized both my parents are manufacturing actually paid for me to go to school with manufacturing didn’t realize that, yes, it was such a kind of hidden industry. It’s kind of brushed under the rug. And that’s that’s me, I just I love live and breathe manufacturing. And I love the industry and the people.


Damon Pistulka  03:57

That’s cool. That’s cool. And I think I think you as as many, many kids your age, I shouldn’t say kids, but people your age almost 30 Now younger than I am. So I just everything. Everybody looks like your kid sorry. But people your age, the parent, your parents, and this is I found guilty with myself to my kids. It’s like, you need to go off and do better than it. You don’t want to do what I do.

Yeah. And then I turn around you look backwards and you go, Well, that wasn’t such a bad life, or it hasn’t been such a bad life. Yeah, nobody’s life is perfect. And you look at like you talked about service jobs. And you look at manufacturing compared to service ship. It’s a lot better work than that. Well, I’d say if that’s what somebody wants to do. Great. Go do that. That’s awesome. Awesome for you. I just I just think people should consider manufacturing.


Mike Womack  04:49

Well, the cool thing is it’s diverse, right? Yeah. If you’re a marketing manager, if you’re a let’s say a custom We’re service rep, right? That’s your space. But if you’re a customer service rep or a marketing manager, or a line up a line production manager in a manufacturing space, things change processes improve over time. Yeah, you can, you can connect and find synergies with other suppliers, your local community find out new ways to promote a manufacturing facility or an operation because it’s cool, the things move.

There’s technologies involved, people are involved every step of the way. So the industry itself is so diverse that even those particular little service like jobs, being an admin in a manufacturing space can be so unique and, and transformative. Really?


Damon Pistulka  05:44

Oh, yeah. Yeah. And you said one thing here, people, and you know, you get to work with a wide variety of people in manufacturing, good people. I mean, good salt of the earth, people that are out there, some have gone to college for many years, some have not gone to college, some


Mike Womack  06:02

are PhDs. I mean, you know, yeah, you just really


Damon Pistulka  06:05

don’t know. And it’s, it’s so much fun to be able to interact with people across the board like that. And really, the exposure you get to people from from different walks of life doing different things really well. So just want to say, hey, for a second to Rodney, I don’t know if you know, Ronnie, Ronnie is big and manufacturing. Hey, Rodney Northwest, but yeah, if you do not improve the process, you will lose money. Because yeah,


Mike Womack  06:31

and that’s in everything in manufacture. Yeah, whether it’s the way you run your you, we were just talking in the USA manufacturing our chat about change, actually. And that was a you need to be able to be comfortable with change to continue to improve.


Damon Pistulka  06:44

Yeah, yeah, it is. Because it is one of the industries that is consistently under pressure to get better and reduce costs, because I can remember in the day when, when people thought, you know, scrap or waste was normal. And now it’s just like, No, it should be zero, you should be going for zero, you should always be going for zero. And you know, and, and I was in the first wave of that when we were producing things for, for, like televisions and other stuff that was really high volume, where you had to get down to 200 parts per million.

And I’m not even going to go to the decimal places in that. But you basically can’t have anything wrong, right. And, and, but that was just one example of how the overall manufacturing industry really had to rethink and rethink and rethink and rethink. Yeah, and it comes through. And this is a good way that I always like to talk to people about the way quality has changed over time.

And reliability has, look at a car today, a car that is made today, you can drive it for 200,000 miles, you’re gonna have to do some things, change some things, those kinds of things. A car 25 years ago, you’re lucky to get it to 200,000 miles. And that’s something we use around us every day, which which I think is is is good, but it’s a great, great industry. So back to the thing I get off on this. But people people are awesome that you run into. So you learn this you get you’re in this manufacturing space. Now you start working for the New Jersey MEP, man, what how was that?


Mike Womack  08:20

I think it’s fantastic. And and I might be biased because Damon again, I really love making things right and I turned my own garage into a blacksmith shop during COVID. I make little leaves and fun little things and and I get to be a part of that process in a small scale. And then I get to walk into a facility that maybe makes the wiring for MRI machines. And it starts out as a giant billet that they pull it drill and they stretch it out throughout the entire facility. And then I get to go to a food processing plant that makes the chemicals and the flavors that we all think our flavors. Yeah, and you go over to a textile shop and then and then a highly advanced life science facility.

There’s just with without being involved in understanding and being at the MEP, you wouldn’t know that this industry exists in this diverse way. We could actively help these manufacturers grow and improve. Ronnie like you’re saying the first run you try to figure it out, you usually lose money. But then you work on some processes, lean manufacturing methodologies and and practice your six sigma, you can turn that second run into a highly profitable all the way through.

So yeah, yeah. And you get the taste that at the MEPs get to see that at the MEPs and you get to watch companies small to medium sized manufacturers grow and become a transformative company. Just with a little support and education.


Damon Pistulka  09:52

Yeah, yeah. And I think when when you I’m just gonna ask a general question to you because I think it’s So what is manufacturing to you?


Mike Womack  10:04

It’s a good question. Manufacturing is it’s it’s straightforward, but also wildly complex. I mean, it can be, again, from making a, let’s say, making a rivet that goes into a supply box that goes all the way overseas, you never see it again. And you realize that that little rivet, that little fastener actually went to an F 35 fighter jet is flying all over the country and that entire process, that entire supply chain, you’re involved in that, you’re a piece of that if you slow up the funnel, then everything else slows behind you. And, and, and we don’t have our highly advanced military jet fighters.

So it’s just so incredible how, how one little process one little seemingly little link in the chain can be a part of a massive sprawling supply chain. It’s incredible, the science, the technologies, everyone involved in the process, everyone on the floor helps make that possible.


Damon Pistulka  11:04

You that’s a great way to to explain it, because it does come down to the the tiny little rivet, that if you didn’t have that rivet, it’s not going anywhere now. And, and even when you take that rivet and look what it took to make that rivet, you know, to make the the metal that made the rivet and then to physically form and make that rivet. There’s a lot of technology that goes into that.


Mike Womack  11:32

It’s encrypted there. Yeah, it really is.


Damon Pistulka  11:35

And, and that’s, that’s cool. That’s cool. Very good stuff. And Rodney said one other thing that we’ll talk about in a minute, but careers in manufacturing, he’s talking about the robotics and how that’s really increased their revenue, and, and consistently in a lot of other things. And because it is it is part of it. And I think really when people are looking at careers, why do you think that they should be looking at manufacturing for a career path?


Mike Womack  12:05

Because it’s different, right? It’s it’s highly competitive, too. I mean, it’s the average annual compensation just in New Jersey is at $94,000. That’s a stat I dropped a lot. So I was I was looking when we were gonna meet, I wanted something to kind of showcase the resiliency of a manufacturing career as well. In New Jersey, all manufacturing was considered essential throughout the pandemic. Nationwide, the unemployment rate dropped. I mean, I mean, it skyrocketed. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.8%.

That’s terrifying. Yeah, manufacturing actually was nearly 2% lower than that, than the rest of the nation. So and it only stayed like that for I think, three months. So yeah, it really recovered quickly, because everyone needs Lysol. Everyone needs toilet paper. Everyone needs everything that was going out of stock, because most actually, the Lysol factory is in New Jersey. So there you go. Have all of these products, all these capabilities, and you are an essential individual. I always do this, I look around the room and say, what someone that’s kind of talking down to manufacturing, we’re about it. And I say point at something that isn’t.


Damon Pistulka  13:16

Yeah, I that’s that that is it is a great one when they talk how


Mike Womack  13:22

do you get through life without it? How do you get to that the individual that put that semiconductor into your laptop, so we can have this conversation?


Damon Pistulka  13:28

Right, exactly, exactly. And I just say hello to Gabe, again, awesome post today about the all the live streams going on today. And I was fortunate enough to be mentioned it just want to say thanks so much for stopping by gave and appreciate that you did that. And hopefully it helps us get to more people to talk about that consider manufacturing for a career. Because it is something that I’m fortunate enough, it supported me for most of my career from the time I started in college, sweeping the floor in a tool room, through engineering put me through engineering school and allowed me to build factories and move all over the country and run companies and you have those skills


Mike Womack  14:08

for the rest of your life. Yeah. And they’re highly profitable, highly sought after once you develop these, once you work and you sweep the floors, where you start out as that that manufacturing associate it, it really starts to snowball, and you really start to build yourself up as as a professional and as a highly sought after, you know, highly profitable professional.


Damon Pistulka  14:30

It is in the career that from a career standpoint. I couldn’t emphasize enough for young people to at least consider it go go and look at some of the manufacturers in their area. Talk to them MEPs because I think if I was a student again, looking to find a place to work and I wanted to look at manufacturing, I would go to my local manufacturing extension partnership and talk to them because they could probably Probably they are being approached. I know today they’re being approached by manufacturers and need people,


Mike Womack  15:05

everyone, every time. I mean, and you know, MEPs make it easy, everyone, every MEP works a little differently. So I’ll do a little bit of a brief the Manufacturing Extension Program Partnership. What it is, is there’s one center at least one center in every state, including Puerto Rico. And we help manufacturers become more competitive profitable through training and consulting services, like you know, how to implement and, and stay consistent with Lean Manufacturing, six sigma, we offer HR support, workforce development on both ends, that goes from, you know, the manufacturer, they need people, or they have people that they need to kind of raise up a little bit upskill.

And then also the job seekers, right. So we’d help on both ends, we can connect with the one stops your local communities, we do our own outreach to make sure that people understand that we’re here, and that the training is available, because there is so much training available at no cost, often to the job seeker.

And then we also work with the manufacturers and the educators to create curriculum, to find out what the manufacturers biggest needs are. So we can develop those skills in those job seekers and accurately place individuals to make sure that we’re filling the roles that you specifically need, and then work with you through an apprenticeship program because we can host a and sponsor a registered apprenticeship program.

So we can host these services with you. So they get the on the job training. And then they come to us for the classroom training and hands on skills and new technologies like desktop CNCS, and augmented reality welding equipment, and production technologies, it’s MEPs can help people find jobs and help the manufacturers looking for pre people. Biggest challenge everyone. I mean, it’s it’s across the board.


Damon Pistulka  16:53

Yeah, it is. And that’s, that’s really cool. So in New Jerseys, what are some of the cool companies that you get to work with in New Jersey? You know,


Mike Womack  17:01

I actually had a little bit of a list here because first, they’re so diverse, and I want to showcase a variety of industries. So we have union where they actually sit on our board too. So we have manufacturers on our board to help guide us into terms of what they need their clothing and apparel, zego manufacturing, they make highly precise, self sealing fasteners. They actually manufactured fasteners that went to ventilators during the height of the pandemic.

So think about how many lives they’ve saved. Yeah. 25 person shop, I believe. Wow, that’s cool. Rebel nail nail polish and beauty innovative products. Yeah. Yeah, very cool. They were actually a manufacturer of the year finalists to this year Grozinger, provision specialty foods, Bellis labs, life sciences, all natural skincare Radwell International, just connected with them through the USA manufacturing our unbelievable we have a video coming out with them soon.

We just toured their facilities, you know, took a bunch of action shots did a an interview, just because I don’t think people understand how amazing manufacturing could be. They had robots coming through the track systems biggest facility I’ve ever seen whole a warehouse in a facility. Massive technologies and people everywhere. So I want to make that point because two highly advanced, robotics driven. People are still involved. You need people no matter where they go, and they need people every single day.


Damon Pistulka  18:27

Yeah, well, we’ve got we got Ronnie he’s talking about he’s been worked with Six Sigma out of Redmond out here in Washington in Vancouver, Washington. That’s cool. And then gay gay asked the question. He said. So you are developing trade training for individuals who want to join the manufacturing community? And I believe that’s true,


Mike Womack  18:43

correct? It absolutely is. And this, these go from one off certifications through the Manufacturing Skills Council, still skills Standards Council MSSC all the way up to personalized curriculum that work with the manufacturer. So we’ll take a manufacturer that needs an individual to be upskilled. And then we’ll put them into our registered apprenticeship program and take them through, you know, the basics.

What is manufacturing, quality and control. Safety is number one that encompasses every aspect and talk about and then production, manufacturing production, whether that’s, you know, lean processes, and you actually walk out of the apprenticeship program with the certified Production Technician certification. Wow.

And you went through an apprenticeship program. So that shows your employer you’re engaged, you have to have a certain amount of on the job training hours a mentor hooked up with you. So it’s truly an a complete journey from start to finish with taking input from the manufacturers themselves, so we can guide that curriculum to produce your ideal worker. And again, they’re not going to come on site with 10 years of CNC experience. It doesn’t happen anymore. They’re they’re retired Yeah,


Damon Pistulka  20:01

yeah. Yeah. So Gabe. So are any of these training classes available online? Or will they be made available online.


Mike Womack  20:09

So we do have an extensive online curriculum available right now, some of these courses do incorporate an in person training component. But I would say, somewhere in the ballpark between 60 and 70% of the material training courses, you can take online and truly get get a real nice understanding of manufacturing, the critical processes are great ways to improve your efficiency. So even if you’re an entry level worker, and you have some lean manufacturing background, you understand Six Sigma, you might understand ISO 9001 to 2015. That’s a huge selling point for yourself. So


Damon Pistulka  20:51

yeah, these are great courses. And, and they’re cool courses are good. I mean, it’s it’s good basic education for someone to to understand if they’re going into manufacturing, because you don’t want to walk in and not know anything about what you’re doing. You will know you’re hurting. Yeah. Well, yeah. Yeah, you can the safety training is number one, because they’re, I mean, honestly, there’s, there’s equipment in many some manufacturing facilities that can hurt you. Absolutely, it is. And, and there’s simple things like something can fall on the floor and,


Mike Womack  21:22

you know, break a toe, that’s, that’s, you know, you know, safety sometimes in a manufacturing facility, it seems like common sense. But if there’s a spill, let’s say you’re walking with your water bottle, and you spilled on the production floor, maybe in an office, you’ll put in the carpet and walk away. In a facility, you can’t do that. And there’s a reason why you can’t do that. Or if it’s a cleanroom. And you walk into a cleanroom, making the, you know, most advanced personalized Moab proteins for your life, you know, in the life science space, yeah, highly advanced pharmaceuticals. And you walk in there and sneeze without a mask on. I mean, COVID are not that that’s a bad thing to do.


Damon Pistulka  22:00

They’re shutting it down and cleaning it up, starting over. And bio


Mike Womack  22:03

bio apprenticeship is one that we’re starting up this next year. So we have a life science focus, and you need those critical skills in that knowledge.


Damon Pistulka  22:12

Now, are these are these available through many of the MEPs? Or is this really unique to the New Jersey? me


Mike Womack  22:19

more and more are taking the model and really running with it? I mean, almost, I’d say 90% of the MEPs have some type of real true workforce development process. I’m going with 90 Because I don’t know for sure if all of them do but I’m, I’m almost confident every MEP has some type of workforce training for the job seeker. And then that manufacturer, audience as


Damon Pistulka  22:42

well. Yeah. Yeah. So if manufacturers looking for specific training, they want to, you know, provide to their workforce, they can do that. Yeah, that’s good stuff. I mean, because I just can’t I can’t stress enough about young people looking at manufacturing. I mean, it can be a lifelong career, where you’re making some of the coolest stuff. And you mentioned some of it, you know, I even go back to mylocker. I mean, we at one company, we may actually made the pins that hold the wings onto an F 22 fighter plane. Oh, we only only supplier of them in the world. And we made these pins and you look at them, you go, wow.

And they’re crazy expensive, of course to imagine they were there about six inches long, they weighed 10 pounds, eight pounds, some they’re heavy, because there are some special metal and a zillion kind of things. But when you think about this, people in factories all over in the middle of Wisconsin and New Jersey and Texas, South Dakota, doesn’t matter where the heck you’re at are out here in Washington State are making things like this every day. And people are going to work there and walking out and it’s just, it’s just demon on the street. In that factory, you don’t know they can be making the next best, you know, mess food, whatever. It’s, it’s going on.


Mike Womack  24:03

There’s 11,000 manufacturing and stem firms. I mean, so much variety and that’s why I keep on going back to that word variety. Yeah, if a job seekers looking for something that they’re passionate about, they’re most likely a manufacturer that’s engaged in that space one way or another. That goes all the way to community you know, activism. Oh, yeah. You know, I mean, the manufacturing cares initiative we kind of created this like cool centralized way that all these manufacturers in New Jersey can donate to Community Food Banks in one fell swoop, we can kind of increase our purchasing power, right? Yeah. We just reached a million meals for hungry New Jerseyans


Damon Pistulka  24:41

meals. So


Mike Womack  24:43

that’s a million meals. That’s a substantial impact. Yeah. Local community. So yeah, it’s just such an ingrained you can even get ingrained in your company who become a part of it. Yeah. Because you you you can be passionate about it.


Damon Pistulka  24:58

That’s awesome that you guys did As the MEP, putting things together because I know as a as an independent business, it’s hard to think of what what do we do, of course, we want to help our community. And, you know, we’ve all sponsored those sports, kids sports and stuff like that. But when you can, we can do some for a food, raising meals for people, as a group, then you can get all everybody you know, involved.


Mike Womack  25:22

Absolutely. And that’s, that’s important in manufacturing, because in I’m going to give New Jersey stats, but in New Jersey alone, the average manufacturer is 32 employees. And I know it’s not too It doesn’t vary one way or the other elsewhere. So they can’t have the biggest impact alone.

But when you combine those efforts, you can really have that, you know, move the needle, and with 32 employees in the average manufacturing facility, and individual means a lot. Yeah, so an individual that’s learning that their skills, their processes, you can have a substantial impact on the company itself. Yeah, just by being you. That’s rare, a lot of companies.


Damon Pistulka  26:02

You’re right. It’s, it is it is, that’s a great point, too, because people want to go to work and make a difference in a business with 32 employees, like you said, the average is 32, you will make a difference if you’re doing a good job, it will show 100% Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome.

Because I, I know this it’s similar across the US a little bit higher Lord, depending on the state you’re in or you’re in but but that is one of the good things that you know, people going into manufacturing, you’re typically not going to work for Ford or Boeing or something like that you’re going to work for, you know, something down the street, where they’re, you know, they might have 50 100 employees, 25 employees average, but it’s, it’s more like a family,


Mike Womack  26:45

it could be intimidating to getting into the industry, though I really can be I understand it. If you’re coming from a service background, or or just learning your career or making a big direction. And we had, you know, apprentices that literally span the entire age group of the workforce. Yeah, because they were looking for a change something more productive.

And it can be intimidating to get into manufacturing, but working with the right partners, talking with the manufacturer themselves and saying, Listen, this is what I want, I’m looking for x, and I want to grow along with you as a company, there may they may be partnered with the MEP, looking for a new hire to include into an apprenticeship program, they might have an internal company program where they train you from the ground up, or support your education. So it starts with that conversation. Opening up, you’re broadening your horizons a little bit in terms of what type of work you’d be interested in looking at?


Damon Pistulka  27:43

Yeah, yeah, I think you said something here about people being intimidated about going into manufacturing, especially as an entry level employee. So what are some things you think those kind of people could do to to, to help get over that? Because man, I just, we got to get more people involved because it is such a good life choice. Well,


Mike Womack  28:07

then I pulled together a, actually a listing on one of these job sites, right, if I have a manufacturing associate, and one of the biggest kind of hurdles that might just immediately make you look at the next listing is minimum of two years of assembly related experience required, okay, and the responsibilities, assemble products, using tools and machinery, inspect products, quality, accuracy, and then perform other duties throughout the shop. But if you don’t have that two years of experience, you might just think, write me off. Let’s go to the next one.

I need a complete entry level position. Yep. But again, by coming to a partner coming to an MEP, that has a training program available, funded through a grant for job seekers, yep, we might be able to help you or put you on a path for a pre apprenticeship program or, or get your six to 12 months of training, and then get you placed at a manufacturer that wants to put you in an apprenticeship program.

Yeah. And then you have three years of training like that you’re in it, you’re working, and you’re not burying yourself in debt. So a little dedication and a little push yourself to explore these manufacturers explore the options that are out there. manufacturing training in your state, Google it. Yeah, like find someone to help you.


Damon Pistulka  29:23

Yeah, that’s a great


Mike Womack  29:23

point. And you’ll find find a really incredible career that will like you said, but last a lifetime.


Damon Pistulka  29:31

Yeah, well, and I mean, manufacturers, good manufacturers. He listens to people about Starbucks or somebody like that, and they’re great companies, right? And I’m not gonna say they’re not good companies. A lot of people work there. That’s awesome. Manufacturers pay for college for their people to go from. I’m in here I’m doing something. I would like to do this in the manufacturing setting. They’ll pay for your college. That’s all I got.

My graduate school is paid for by my employer, and you know, and these this kind of stuff, they’ll do it for people going to technical school, you if you if you started working for a machining company, and you said, Man, I really want to go to technical school to get better at this machining. I probably could there probably be people lined up to say, Okay, you got a little experience you want to work here while you’re doing this percent? Yeah, you know so or robotics or just take your pick any kind of stuff like that? Because I think that’s another thing that that really is lost in this is that your your step in is not the ending point. Oh, no, no, no. And that’s


Mike Womack  30:36

a big thing too. I hear people even, you know, coming on. I wrote I just wrote this article, just just cholera, no collars, just careers stop job shaming, right. And it really focused in on the the stigmas around talking about going into the manufacturing facility, not immediately after high school or immediately after high school rather than immediately going to college. Yeah, and, you know, you’re not college material.

Not everyone has to go to college. Oh, you found a job. That’s, that’s good for you. We’re, in reality it was. It’s more along the lines of Listen, this is just a great next step to high school, you’re gaining a different kind of education you’re gaining, you’re gaining real life world experience that your college friends are going to be wanting once they look for a job. And then maybe you do that for four years, three years, go to your employer, say, hey, I’m interested in maybe understanding a little bit more about the business end of your company.

And maybe I can go to go take a couple of these classes at MEP or at the local community colleges or at a state school. I mean, there’s no rule that say, there’s no rule that say you have to go to college immediately after high school. And if you don’t, that you can never get your education or never expand yourself ever again. Yeah, it’s the opposite. Actually, you might be able to do more, because you won’t be buried in student debt. You’d be working for three years, and your employer is going to pay for 90% of your college.


Damon Pistulka  32:07

Yeah, it just it’s no, no. Yeah, it is it is. And the other thing is, too is it’s not the right time for some people to go to college right after high school, it’s better if you worked a few years, because I guarantee if you’re putting a few bucks into college, four or five years after you are in the schooling four or five years after working for that money, it’s gonna be a lot different than when you went out of high school. But yeah, better results from your your time,


Mike Womack  32:32

it’s 100%. Again, understood just from you know, I went, I went to the traditional route, high school college where I did, I wish I didn’t, I wish I worked for a year, two years, three years in between just to kind of understand how the world works.

And then I’d be able to relate that since then I’ve gone taking classes, I’ve, I’ve expanded my professional education, and now I’ve got so much more out of it, because I can relate it to this process in my everyday life, I utilize this material are utilized these strategies are I need this information to make this process easier for me and my employer. So you really gain a lot more out of your educational experience, once you understand how the education is applied.


Damon Pistulka  33:14

Yeah, yeah. Good, good. So this is totally you know, we talked a little bit about we’re going to talk about and I just came up with this idea, and it’s gonna be crazy, but we’re gonna do it and see how it works. So let’s let’s name as many different types of jobs that you can think of manufacture until we can’t name anymore. Manufacturing, right in manufacturing limits us that limits us in manufacturing. But this this think about it because because, you know, and and you know, you’ve got the simple three, and I’ll start with them.

But there’s, there’s, you can look that people work in production, or they work at administration, or they work in marketing and sales, like we’ve talked about before. But let’s get more specific about that. Talk about some of the jobs that people might not think that are really important in manufacturing, from from end to end, e commerce manager. Oh, there’s a good one e commerce manager. I’m going to say CFOs financial advisor, I mean, people don’t understand how complex the finances are in a manufacturing business.


Mike Womack  34:19

What’s a operational Operations Manager, right, you work this operation, the operation of manufacturing is so cool. It’s from from raw materials into shipping out it’s a lot.


Damon Pistulka  34:33

Yeah. And I want to say you can you can mix this up into a lot of different things, but the technical skills that maintenance people have to have in modern manufacturing plants. It’s not like me going out and working on my car in the garage. It’s like you’re working on robots and other crazy stuff. Yeah, that so I’m gonna say maintenance and I’m gonna I’m gonna bundle in different things like robotics CNC programmer, the The oh yeah CNC programmer. That’s another one CNC programmers. You’ve got, you know, like, big equipment operators like laser operators or punch press operators. Yeah. Big CNC machine operators or crane operator. Crane, you


Mike Womack  35:15

know that from Yeah, yeah,


Damon Pistulka  35:16

yeah. Cuz I was I was in a facility that I actually managed the facility that we I saw this thing that they were machining and I was like how the heck do you guys do this it was like 40 feet by 20 feet by 10 feet. And they were it was the, it was the base for a crane that went into a mine, that that someone had welded and fabricated this thing. And we had a machine that was big enough that we had the big enough cranes to put it in and position. And we were, we were putting mounting holes on it for other stuff. No way. And I was like, You gotta be kidding me. So you know. So there’s all kinds of different things that 3d


Mike Womack  35:56

printing r&d, there just was just walking around this facility. And right next to a welding shop. They had a facilities, massive 300,000 plus square feet, right next to the welding shop and machine shop is a pristine room with little plastic trinkets all over, it was very confused.

We walk in, they have seven different 3d printers microscopes set up, they’re actually producing and manufacturing a commonly lost component in a refurbished electronic unit. So they were actually meant manufacturing this very kind of benign product that you can’t sell the electronics without. Yeah, and they had to figure out a make them then figure out how to make fast, then they started investing into this process, and then learn that they can Oh, we can manufacture an infinite number of other materials and processes on PCs and casings. For our electronics. It was such a cool spot.


Damon Pistulka  36:53

Yeah, you know, and you talk about 3d printing and manufacturing. And everybody goes, Oh, that’s a great way to prototype stuff. I was working in a factory a number of years ago, and they did this exact same thing. You said if they needed something that looked like this, didn’t need to be that strong. And they could do it. They had a 3d printer just because they made stuff.


Mike Womack  37:12

Because he had the big was like a 12 foot bed CNC machine in the other room. So if you needed something out of, you know, high carbon, you know, 4140 You’re good. Yeah. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  37:22

And they’re just using it. The engineers are drawn stuff up. And engineering is another thing and manufacturing and all these other stuff. It’s just, it’s


Mike Womack  37:29

just Ronnie’s rail over here. Right? Programmers fit into machinists. Yeah, yeah, they


Damon Pistulka  37:35

do it very, very seldom a programmer, they usually have to start as a machinist to be a program, especially complex, because it’s just it’s very difficult to learn. And it’s a great way though that you see the progression, you could start out, you could start out sweeping, because there Rashid, figure it out, go to school get a little better, and then be in in doing programming,


Mike Womack  37:56

because it really does start at that foundational level, right? You need to know how things are made you because you can’t just be well, you can be trained to program, a CNC machine. But if you needed to create a product, you need to understand how that product needs to function, you need to understand the other components within that product. So a CNC programmer with machining experience is a well rounded individual that you could really rely on to make the best quality product. Yeah, that’s why we invested in those in these desktop Haas PLC desktop CNC mills. They’re amazing.


Damon Pistulka  38:31

Yeah, let’s talk about this. Because I mean, we could sit and talk about this stuff forever. And I want to I want to I want to fast forward to you know, we had manufacturing monitoring is October, you guys had an awesome Manufacturing Day kick. It was Wyatt, you said you had over 500 people, which is freaking incredible. That’s just great. And, you know, now we’re looking forward, though in in November. Let’s talk about Apprenticeship Week.


Mike Womack  38:58

It’s coming up right November 15. That week starts. And it is from the US DOL and it’s really focused to ensure people understand what apprenticeship is in the modern world, how it works, exposing young students to new industrial careers that they may have not even thought about. We did a really good job 1015 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, explaining that you can’t do anything besides go to college after high school. Yeah, people realize that mistake, and we’re really trying to heal that and apprenticeship which allows and gives manufacturers educators and students excuse to connect and understand what apprenticeship means and how


Damon Pistulka  39:39

it works. Yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s cool. So what are some of the things are going to be happening that week then?


Mike Womack  39:45

So we’re actually inviting schools, educators and school administrators into our South Jersey office. We just opened up a new South Jersey office to get hands on with some of the new cool training technology knowledge that we just acquired. We have an augmented reality arc welding kit. It’s It’s so cool. It’s actually a true weld like a MIG welding, yeah, set up, everything is gutted and LCD LCD screens in there. The helmet is just the same way as a normal welding helmet. Everything’s gutted with an LCD, LSD, LCD screen in there.

And then also, the welding kit, and the welding torch is all the same, except the wire is just a plastic rod with QR C codes all over it. So how it works is you’re actually put the helmet on. And then this, this piece of plastic is in front of you. And when you put that helmet on, you see the world the same. But that’s a piece of metal and then you can even do a, what is it aluminum, high carbon steel, mild steel, and change the process so you can actually train welding, it’s incredible, is Wow, our welding instructor in here.

I’ve done a little welding is so similar besides the heat, and you Yeah, you can see it happening on the screen on the on the tower. And you don’t go through scrap? Yeah, you train your people on a bunch of different materials all in one place. There’s no chance of injury for a starting out welder. So we’re getting people to try those out so you can see it, experience it. We have a desktop CNC mill with an actual Haas PLC. So it’s the same equipment that you’re using just kind of scaled down.

And we have a it’s called a skills boss, it’s you can intentionally cause errors in a production process. You need to troubleshoot, it has actuators. It has all these different pieces that can go wrong, different components can go wrong in a large piece of machinery, just on a very small scale. Very small. So if one of those UConn benches, you know, the rollers and everything. Yes, it’s right on top of that, it’s, it’s gonna be an amazing event, because we can really bring the three critical parts of this workforce challenge into the same room to showcase the industry and the ways that you can get upskill to enter that industry.


Damon Pistulka  42:03

Yeah. Yeah, that’s awesome. And I really, I mean, we don’t even talk about apprenticeship in schools. Now it’s in their school. It’s go to college. Yeah, yeah. And this is something that I think I we talked about before we got on Matt goosey at Mrs. machining that they in Wisconsin there he’s done it for years. I think his father actually started doing it when they many years ago in the 80s.

And and companies that have embraced this and really embrace that workforce development, see the benefits of this over time and his way? Because in his interview, I believe and I’m I’m probably wrong, but he said the average age of his workforces is like 28. Wow, think about that. Think about that. How many times have you walked into a manufacturing place? And the average age is 20, some years old? And I think it was, it might have been might have been


Mike Womack  43:00

under 40? Yeah, definitely.


Damon Pistulka  43:03

It was just my eyes. I was just like, You got to be kidding me. He said, No, it’s because we’ve done this we consistently are helping people find find their careers with us and then getting the training they need. And I bet they’re


Mike Womack  43:17

in a better place in the workforce. aspect than 80% of manufacturers in the nation.


Damon Pistulka  43:23

Yeah. Yeah. Because I mean, this is a this is a problem. Young people now should think about this to the average age in manufacturing is much higher than many other industries.


Mike Womack  43:34

I think it’s I think it’s pushing 60 Oh, goodness, it’s


Damon Pistulka  43:38

not that bad. But but it’s but so if you’re coming into an industry, your advancement opportunities may happen faster. Yeah. Because because you’re there, if you’re there, you’re showing promise, you’re doing what you need to do, you can move up in manufacturing,


Mike Womack  43:55

I said, a little dedication before and I want to emphasize that because it is just it does take dedication, right. You have to be committed to what you want. Oh, yeah, you have to show up on time. That’s a big problem. I’m here. You know, we you hear people hire all these people. That’s what usually brings them to us is we hired three people in the past year, they didn’t show up on time they went MIA, they didn’t have the skills, they said they did and then they’re gone. So it is just a little dedication to get there.

And you can make an impression by showing up trying your best learning the materials. And a lot of these people that are in this space, and I’m not saying that the average age 60 is a bad thing anywhere else. But that means people are close to retirement means a lot of people just want to retire, but they can’t because they’ve been committed to their employer. They know them might be like family, they won’t leave them without some help. So they are looking to lead they’re looking to retire. They’re looking to pass down this legacy knowledge. You might find a mentor that will you know, have a massive impact on your life


Damon Pistulka  44:56

forever. That’s a great point. And because some of the I mean, when I was young, I was very fortunate, you know, when I was still sweeping the floors, people taking the time to teach me about business and manufacturing, it’s awesome. And and it’s so cool.

These people that you talk about being on time, it’s much different. If you’re not on time, and I’m doing a job where I’m just going to use an example that came to my head, if I’m bagging groceries, and I’m not there on time to bag groceries. Well, somebody else could bag groceries, something else like that. If I’m in manufacturing, and I’m running a CNC machine, and I can’t show up on time, that CNC machine might have to shut down,


Mike Womack  45:42

because only back to my first comment about you know, you’re making a rivet, but it goes into the F 35. Fighter, we might not be as protected, you know, nationwide because he didn’t show up on time. Exactly. Manufacturing is a cool process, because it’s an intricate process. Every piece matters. You matter when you’re there. You need to show up and do that part because it matters to everyone else in the facility and down the supply chain as well.


Damon Pistulka  46:08

Yeah, you make a good point, because you can be making stuff that 50 Other people depend on you making in that facility, and then they can’t work tomorrow. Yeah. So that’s, that’s great, though, you brought that up. So as as we’re moving in and finishing our conversation here. We’re excited about a Apprenticeship Week, I think that’s gonna be awesome. The the augmented reality while name, I’ve got to go see that. So you got to come. Yeah, you got so cool. That’s so cool. So what, what do you really see some of the other benefits of being engaged in the manufacturing space, something that people might not think of. So,


Mike Womack  46:52

you know, the industry is changing, the recognition is changing, which is awesome, because, uh, you know, you said you work in manufacturing, people might look down on it, I hate that word, blue collar theme, and you have a blue blue collar on, you know, I don’t I don’t think you showed up to the facility today to weld something, it doesn’t matter that none of that matters.

So people are starting to forget that because everyone really realizes what happens when we can’t buy from, you know, low cost nations, and you’re playing an intricate role and their salaries show so if you know, show up in a nice car, you buy that first house with your hard earned money, it’s hard to, you know, look down upon your career when you’re highly advanced in terms of the average so.

And why I’m saying that is because it’s easier to to get involved with communities, it’s easier to get involved with the advocacy for manufacturing, you could speak up, you can use that position to posture yourself, network, get out there and really connect with the local community, like we were talking about with the with the food bank. So manufacturers, they have the opportunity to really get into their local communities work with their state and federal senators, Congress people and, and really get engaged, you’re a part of a really important piece of the nation.

And there are so many ways, like a Manufacturing Day, we have a big networking event that we have, you can get involved with local schools and communities, you can really build yourself up to be a part of the manufacturing community, which is sprawling, and usually statewide, they’re pretty, it’s a pretty tight knit community. So if you want to build up your network, if you want to start learning more, if you want to potentially be a business owner, you can make all of these connections to position yourself above and beyond the rest.


Damon Pistulka  48:43

Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. And I think we’re just gonna We’re have to stop on that. I’m, I’m speechless. You do a great job, Mike. It’s always awesome to talk to you right back out again and love the energy man. And you’re bringing it and showing young people that there are career opportunities and manufacturing they should be considering today. And just just out there being such a great advocate for manufacturing, I so appreciate right


Mike Womack  49:09

back hatch. I appreciate you having me on. I really do. It’s always a pleasure speaking to you and getting to share that experience because it’s so often overlap.


Damon Pistulka  49:19

Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well, I just want to say thanks to Rodney and Gabe, for being here, dropping some comments in it was great to have you guys on here and everyone else is listening. Hey, if you want to know something about manufacturing in New Jersey, contact Mike Womack at the New Jersey MEP, they will help you get what you need it whether you’re a manufacturer looking for help whether you’re an individual looking for skills, and if you’re not in New Jersey, look at your local MEP.

Yep, they’re all over it. Like you said, they’re in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. So do that. And thanks so much for being here today. Mike. Thank you and I will be back again. Next week with some more great people talking on faces of business thanks everyone

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