A Manufacturer’s Call to Action

Manufacturing has undergone monumental changes in the past few decades. Gone are the days when grandpa’s grimy machine shop was sufficient in meeting industry needs. Today manufacturing is all about automation and robotics that require high-tech, high-skilled labor. Despite the emergence of a new face in manufacturing, traces of the old visage still haunts the industry leaving manufacturers like Terry Iverson to address misconceptions that are no longer relevant to manufacturing.

In many ways Iverson is a positive representation of what manufacturing was, and should be. He is the president of Iverson & Company, a third-generation manufacturer of a 79-year-old CNC machine tool distributorship located in Des Plaines, IL., and has made a living selling machine tools to manufacturers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana for the last 30 years.

For the past three decades Iverson has established strategic relationships with a number of technical colleges, and maintained partnerships with high schools that are involved in STEM or Project Lead the Way initiatives. He recently served on the CTE Foundation Board, Northern Cook County Workforce Board, and currently serves as a member of FLATE’s National Visiting Committee. His involvement with FLATE’s NVC has brought fresh perspective, technical expertise, industry knowledge that has contributed to the Center’s ongoing success. He points to FLATE’s outreach and partnership with local industry as a key part of its success, and agrees “having those kind of connections is vital to sustaining the vision/mission of the organization.”

Iverson points to America as one of the most technologically savvy nations in the world. Given his numerous engagements and insider’s know-how of manufacturing, he often wondered about his customers’ inability to find good, skilled talent for their manufacturing requirements. He says he noticed a loss of manufacturing’s lure over young people, and a disappearance of high school/apprentice programs. Iverson also points to an ageing workforce as one of the current challenges manufacturers face across the board. As jobs get outsourced, and manufacturing processes get more automated and technologically savvy he notes an immediate need for young and fresh minds, as well as a high-skilled, educated workforce.

Taking all of this into account, he decided to take action, to do something, to make a difference in the manufacturing industry. In March, 2010 Iverson founded a not-for-profit organization called C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N. Now which stands for Change How American Manufacturing is Perceived In Our Nation-Now! The NOW represents an immediate call to action for change that will impact young people by tearing down misconceptions of manufacturing perpetuated via the media or traditional ideas, and encouraging them to pursue career choices in skilled areas of high-tech manufacturing.

The organization whose primary vehicle of communication is through its website www.championnow.org has a broad focus. The site offers a number of resources on current, new and upcoming trends in the manufacturing industry, information on salary, jobs/career choices that are geared to fire up interest in manufacturing. “The U.S. is still the number one manufacturing country in the world. From a national to an economic standpoint, manufacturing is important to our country.” Its message is not only targeted towards current/future incumbent students and workers, but more importantly towards key decision makers—parents, teachers, guidance counselors—who hold a traditional view of manufacturing, and have the power to dissuade young people from educational/career pathways in manufacturing.

Despite its infancy, the organization and its site has been a magnet for educators and industry representatives from 38 different states who have offered their support. The site has enabled Iverson to hold a “CNC Technology Day” for local students where students take a field trip to Iverson & Company demo room to witness the latest in CNC processes. His ultimate hope he says “is to get USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and even 60 Minutes interested in helping change the misperceptions of American manufacturing, and underline the
importance of manufacturing in maintaining the technical and innovative edge the U.S. had has thus far.”

To get the ball rolling on these efforts, Iverson has joined forces with a film maker in Wisconsin to produce a documentary about manufacturing which is scheduled for release in Jan. 2011. Looking to the future, he hopes to organize a nationwide event to conduct industry-tours to high-tech manufacturing facilities. Through that Iverson hopes to reposition manufacturing in a positive light so parents will encourage kids not only to pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, accountants, but encourage kids to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering-related careers. “With a rejuvenated effort for the youth of tomorrow in American Manufacturing, we will all prosper” Iverson said.

You can join Terry’s cause at www.championnow.org, or contact him at tiverson@iversonandco.com.