The Greater Memphis Chamber and Members Work with Shelby County Schools to Promote National Manufacturing Day

Release date: 9/26/2014

Memphis, Tenn. -- The Greater Memphis Chamber and several of its members joined forces with Shelby County Schools to celebrate National Manufacturing Day with students in the Memphis area on Friday. The celebration aims to promote the career opportunities available in an industry that’s completely transformed from the days of these students’ grandparents.

“Memphis remains a premiere location for manufacturing companies around the world and providing these companies with a qualified workforce is a priority,” said Phil Trenary, President & CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber. “We have the abundance of young people needed to fill these positions, and National Manufacturing Day is one opportunity to educate them on the possibilities of this career path.”

The reshoring of production plants has created an influx of jobs, with the American manufacturing industry adding nearly 600,000 jobs since 2010. According to a 2012 jobs analysis performed by the Greater Memphis Chamber and the Workforce Investment Network, local manufacturers plan to hire over 4,000 employees from 2012 - 2016.

BDO USA, LLP knows firsthand of the workforce pains the manufacturing industry is experiencing. Because manufacturing is the accounting, tax and consulting firm’s largest client group, BDO has been heavily involved in building awareness through campaigns like National Manufacturing Day.

“I work with companies in the manufacturing industry every day, and workforce development is without a doubt the number one problem they face,” said Rick Schreiber, Memphis managing partner and also a national leader within BDO’s manufacturing and distribution industry practice. “Changing the outdated perceptions associated with manufacturing is crucial, especially for an industry that has such a huge impact on the Greater Memphis Area.”

The Chamber worked with BDO, Durham School Services and Shelby County Schools to organize student tours with five local manufacturers. On these tours, students received information on possible careers within the industry and the paths to get there. Melrose High School, Whitehaven High School, Southwest Career and Technology Center, Sheffield Career and Technology Center and East High School toured Flextronics, Electrolux, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc., Competition Cams and Smith & Nephew respectively.

"It’s never too soon for students to begin planning for the future,” said Dorsey Hopson, Superintendent of Shelby County Schools. “As educators and leaders, we push our young people to prepare for life beyond high school. Partnering with the Greater Memphis Chamber has exposed these students to more possibilities, and the career advice they received will help them become successful."

National Manufacturing Day emphasizes that this is not manufacturing’s old days of assembly lines and minimum wage jobs. College graduates who chose careers in manufacturing on average earn $77,060 per year. When local manufacturers were asked which positions they needed to fill the most, half of the top 25 occupations were identified as “moderately high-tech manufacturing,” including technicians and engineers whose skills crossed industry types and subject-matter expertise.

“It has been a challenge recruiting for more than one hundred open positions in manufacturing over the last year here in Memphis,” said Gene Baker, Vice President of Operations for Smith & Nephew, Memphis’ largest manufacturer. “We’re now engaged in a number of initiatives designed to educate and train the future workforce in our city. The jobs are here, and we’re excited to be a part of the development of tomorrow’s manufacturing talent.”
Richard Bomar, plant manager for Flextronics, also wishes the tour will be a positive experience for the students.

“Flextronics is honored and excited to share what we do with the Memphis workforce of tomorrow from Melrose High,” Bomar said. “We hope the experience inspires students to strive for excellence and to want to be part of what makes Memphis special.”

For 175 years, the Greater Memphis Chamber has been the lead economic development organization for Memphis/Shelby County, and is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of 2,400 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals.