Every year, more than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life. These are often men and women used to putting their talents to work in a mission larger than themselves, accustomed to working in teams toward common goals and in possession of skills and talents that would make them excellent additions to any manufacturing shop floor.
So, at a time when more than 80 percent of manufacturers are reporting a talent shortage—at a time when there are about 391,000 jobs going unfilled in manufacturing already and when about 2 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2025—why would we not connect our nation’s returning heroes to manufacturing career opportunities that can enrich their lives?
That’s why the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute—the organization I lead, which is dedicated to enhancing manufacturing competitiveness and attracting, training and retaining the manufacturing workforce of the 21st century—worked to develop the Heroes MAKE America initiative.
Heroes MAKE America is a full-time career skills program launched this January in partnership with the U.S. Army Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program and the USO Pathfinder Program at Fort Riley in Kansas. It is aimed at connecting manufacturers with highly qualified veteran candidates and arming those transitioning service members with the exact in-demand qualifications and industry-specific certifications they need to not only find a perfect manufacturing career, but also excel in it. The 10-week Heroes program allows transitioning service members to earn college credits, receive multiple industry credentials and develop career training in everything from résumé writing, to social media management, to personal finance. And, while this may still be a brand-new initiative, the results so far are already starting to speak for themselves. Our inaugural Heroes class, which graduated in March, landed countless interviews and achieved an 85 percent placement rate with companies such as Goodyear, Dold Foods (Hormel), Norfolk Southern Railway, Waste Management and USAA. The most recent class of Fort Riley Heroes, which graduated just this month, is on a similar track, too.
Amid the success of our pilot program at Fort Riley, we now have plans underway to expand Heroes MAKE America across the country—most immediately, to Texas’ Fort Hood—with a goal of giving hundreds more transitioning service members the opportunity to participate in this life-changing program over the coming year.
Heroes MAKE America is an important program that’s more than just a game-changer for an industry in need of skilled workers—it’s a meaningful way to give back to the men and women who do so much on our behalf every day. They’ve lived a life of service in uniform. Now, let’s do what we can to give them incredible new opportunities to continue serving with well-paying, high-skill careers in manufacturing—careers that can help build the comfortable and rewarding civilian lives our heroes deserve.
In her role, Carolyn leads the Institute’s workforce efforts to close the skills gap and inspire all Americans to enter the U.S. manufacturing workforce, focusing on women, youth, and veterans. Carolyn steers the Institute’s initiatives and programs to educate the public on manufacturing careers, improve the quality of manufacturing education, engage, develop and retain key members of the workforce, and identify and document best practices. In addition, Carolyn drives the agenda for the Center for Manufacturing Research, which partners with leading consulting firms in the country. The Institute studies the critical issues facing manufacturing and then applies that research to develop and identify solutions that are implemented by companies, schools, governments, and organizations across the country.
Prior to joining the Institute, Carolyn was Senior Director of Tax Policy at the NAM beginning in 2011, where she was responsible for key portions of the NAM’s tax portfolio representing the manufacturing community on Capitol Hill and in the business community and working closely with the NAM membership. She served as the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, Manager of State and Federal Government Affairs for 3M Company, and in various positions on Capitol Hill including as Legislative Director for former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and as a senior legislative staff member for former U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY).
Carolyn is a graduate of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania graduating with a B.A. in Political Science. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and three children.