Last week, Colorado Business Roundtable President Jeff Wasden and I attended the Dream It. Do It. Collaborative Learning Conference in Crystal City, Virginia (just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.). We were looking forward to meeting other state representatives of Dream It. Do It., the program of The Manufacturing Institute that helps connect skilled workers to manufacturers, and finding out how best we can initiate the program here in Colorado since joining in late 2015. We got to do that and much more. This Collaborative Learning Conference lived up to its name and beyond -- it was a powerful experience of instruction and connection across the network of nearly all 50 states.
At the conference, we finally got to put faces with the emails and calls shared over many months and miles. It was valuable to hear from leadership of The Manufacturing Institute, Executive Director Jennifer McNelly, and Senior Vice President Brent Weil, as well as to meet the incredible support staff. Later in the conference, Katherine McClelland, Director of Education and Workforce Initiatives with The Manufacturing Institute and Christine Scullion, Director of Human Resources Policy for National Association of Manufacturers, lead a discussion on federal and state policies surrounding workforce and manufacturing.
We also got to see our Nebraskan neighbors, the ones who initially got us involved in the Dream It. Do It. network. Juli Thelen and TR Raimondo of Dream It. Do It. Nebraska presented to the entire conference about their extremely successful Career Dream Teams program and how to launch it.
In the spirit of the collaborative conference, several states coordinated Deep Dive sessions on their most successful programs so that we could have the time and attention to learn about the programs in depth, ask tons of questions, hear about what really worked, and even hear about what didn't work. This way, we can avoid "reinventing the wheel" as well as avoid inventing the wheel that has to be recalled. States who lead Deep Dive sessions were DIDI Virginia, DIDI Minnesota, DIDI Pennsylvania, DIDI Ohio, DIDI Connecticut and DIDI Oklahoma.
We discovered eduFACTOR by Edge Factor, the hit youth engagement media series, and received research updates from Gardner Carrick, Vice President of The Manufacturing Institute and Michael Conn, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Research, Educational Research Center of America. Not only did we get to hear the latest findings related to workforce education initiatives and the manufacturing industry, we discussed how to use research to run a more impactful program for youth and their influencers.
There was an excellent panel called, "Employers Speak Up: What Works for Partnership and How to Get More of Us." These panelists were chosen as models for employers who talk the talk AND walk the walk, and they shared their experiences of engaging with youth, community and Dream It. Do It. to bring success to their companies. The panel included Guy Moos, CEO, Baker Boy; Anne Roman, Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company; Reed Needles, Customer Service Coordinator, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company; and Gwen Bluemich, Strategic Education & Workforce Development Initiatives, U.S. Government Relations, Regulatory Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, GLOBALFOUNDRIES.
In closing, we heard many interesting facts and figures throughout the conference, but the one that struck me most was in reference to the name of the program: Only 15 percent of students graduating high school "have a dream." It stops an optimist like me cold, like being doused with a bucket of water, that the vast majority of students obtaining their high school diplomas might not see a future that in anyway resembles a dream come true. But with the Dream It. Do It. network, I have no doubt that we in Colorado can help close the Skills Gap and grow new generations of highly-skilled, well-paid, employees in the manufacturing industry.
The Dream It. Do It. Collaborative Learning Conference far surpassed what typically comes to mind to many people when they hear the word “conference.” It is absolutely inspiring to be among such professionals committed to their work of helping connect others to work and companies to the workers they need. You’ll hear plenty more from Dream It. Do It. Colorado this summer. In the meantime, you should sign up for the email list here and send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a manufacturer looking to connect with the next generation of skilled workers.
Tara Alexander is the Program Manager for Dream It Do It Colorado and the Public Relations Coordinator for Colorado Business Roundtable.
Learn about Dream It. Do It. Colorado and the national Dream It. Do It. network of with The Manufacturing Institute by listening to this podcast while you browse our websites or download it for later.
Here are some of our favorite pics and tweets from #DIDICLC16: