News Flash

Economic Development

Posted on: September 3, 2019

Manufacturing Day in Williamsburg, VA

MFG Day logo

This article is by Glen Marshall. Glenn Marshall is a Newport News Shipbuilding Career Pathway volunteer, who is leading the AME North America MFG Day initiatives in conjunction with the National Association for Manufacturers. You may email Mr. Marshall at

Manufacturing job openings are at an all-time high according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. It is estimated that manufacturers could have 2.4 million unfilled jobs by 2028 unless the right steps are taken today to build the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow. These career opportunities are not what they once were and now include high wages and exposure to cutting-edge technology and innovations. How can we address this workforce issue now?

Closing the Skills Gap

Businesses along with their alliance partners and local leaders are collaborating with public schools and community colleges to address the talent shortage. The groups are preparing to graduate career and college-ready individuals. Skills-focused vocational programs are needed for manufacturing careers. Both apprenticeships and credentialing programs must be widely accessible and affordable for workforce development. Skills, not a college education, are critical for the future of a strong manufacturing workforce.

A Career and Technical Education (CTE) - once called a vocational education or trade school - is having a resurgence of interest and support because of the successful careers that follow. CTE provides students of all ages with academic and technical skills as well as knowledge and training necessary to succeed in future careers, college and as lifelong learners. Some high school students can participate in CTE programs based on their interests before graduating.

“There is a growing need for skilled workers — jobs that require more than a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree. But often people don’t understand what that work entails or the pay it offers,” said Jarrod Nagurka, Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager for the Virginia-based Association for Career and Technical Education.

Manufacturing Day 

Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) is an initiative of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) designed to provide high school outreach to foster an interest in manufacturing careers and to help to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.  MFG Day helps show the reality of modern advanced technology and manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies to open their doors for students, teachers and community leaders to see future career opportunities available in a community.

MFG Day connects the future workforce to potential careers and changes the existing narrative around manufacturing. Last year, 275,000 people participated in nearly 3,000 MFG Day events across North America. More than 80 percent of participating students said they became more convinced that manufacturing provides interesting and rewarding careers after attending MFG Day.

Students from Williamsburg James City County Schools (WJCC) have participated in MFG Day for the last six years. This year’s event will be on Thursday, Oct. 3 and include tours at Anheuser-Busch, Ball Corporation, Coresix Precision Glass, Nicewood Enterprises, Owens-Illinois, Owens & Minor, and Printpack, all located in James City County.

Guidance counselors, teachers, School Board members and James City County staff accompanied the students on the tour. The tours conclude with a discussion and lunch at Legacy Hall. Each year during the discussion many students are in awe of the opportunities available in the local manufacturing sector. The local MFG Day is coordinated annually by James City County’s Office of Economic Development and WJCC Schools in conjunction with the AME.

More than 500 WJCC students have participated over the course of the program. Students from all three WJCC high schools experienced how advanced technology has changed manufacturing and they learned what skills are needed to qualify for careers in the manufacturing sector.

But, Why?

In Virginia, manufacturing remains a vital part of the economy and contributes more than $44 billion to the Commonwealth’s gross domestic product annually. Virginia is home to more than 4,563 manufacturing establishments employing approximately 240,160 workers. In James City County, there are more than 1,800 manufacturing jobs and in the Greater Peninsula region, there are more than 32,000 manufacturing jobs. Of the top 50 largest employers in James City County, nearly 10 have a manufacturing component to their workforce.

It is critical to the growth of the manufacturing sector in Virginia that today’s students are exposed to the opportunities and benefits of a career in manufacturing through CTE and educational experiences.

MFG Day supports exposure about manufacturing to students and allows manufacturing businesses to be involved in their local communities.

To learn more about MFG Day, visit their website. Information about James City County and WJCC Schools can be found online.

Media Contact:
Christopher Johnson, Economic Development Director

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