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Drew Crowe has come an awful long way in a pretty short time, and the world of manufacturing is already the better for it.
“The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, I addressed both the White House and the Pentagon on industrial policy,” he said. “I talked about how we’re not currently capable of supporting a major war effort, and how we need to engage with underserved communities to get the workers we need in manufacturing.”
That’s not too shabby for a guy who started work as a CNC machinist just 13 years ago.
He’s come a long way professionally since then. He’s now an instructor of advanced manufacturing technology at a leading technical college in St. Louis. And today Crowe is on a mission. Having experienced firsthand how too many manufacturers fail to reach young people and other demographics that aren’t traditional participants in the manufacturing workforce, he has set out to personally help change things. Toward that end he hatched the idea of his New American Manufacturing Renaissance Tour, which launches today at WSU Tech in Wichita, Kansas.
New American Manufacturing Renaissance Tour
The tour is focused on connecting together different stakeholders in manufacturing workforce development, including companies, teachers and education leaders, non-profits and community leaders, with the goal of educating everyone on the opportunities available in advanced manufacturing.
“It’s going really, really well,” said Crowe. “We’ve got some really great sponsors, like Factory Fix, All Def Digital/Culture Genesis, Mavens of Manufacturing, Modern Machine Shop, Mastercam, The Culture Locker, and Edge Factor. Plus, we have local sponsors in each state. It’s really cool–I’ve got the excitement of our own industry, plus now urban culture. All Def Digital gives us the opportunity to infiltrate for awareness and rebranding, to connect with youth that you’re not going to find on LinkedIn.”
While Crowe is aggressively engaging with minority groups as part of his efforts, he makes it clear that’s not the only focus. “People see me and assume I’m only speaking for marginalized groups,” he explained. “But I speak for all of the youth and job seekers needing a career that will help them excel in life. I’ve been able to sit with and talk one-on-one to young people coming into our industry. I get to see what excites them, what they think is cool. Nobody else that’s speaking on engaging with our youth have interacted with them on a day-to-day basis. I’ve got feet on the ground for sure.”
Part of the challenge is overcoming old stereotypes about manufacturing, not only with young people but with their parents as well. “I talk to young people and they’re still hearing the same things about manufacturing as a generation ago–that it’s dirty and dangerous,” Crowe said. “I hear them say, ‘My parents don’t want me to go into manufacturing,’ and things like that. We’re still somewhat in the dark ages on getting out what modern manufacturing looks like, but with the partners we have, we should be able to spur more action. I’m hoping it’s the first domino that will knock down a whole bunch more.”
Opportunities to Spread the Word
The buzz that Crowe has already generated has led to other opportunities to spread the word. “I was asked to co-host ‘Project MFG,’” he said. “It’s a wonderful show, but no one knows about it, and we need energy and passion on the show. We’re on Facebook, and we’re going to another major network for next season. Project MFG has brought an eye on our industry for good tech schools. We’re giving away $100,000.” The show highlights skilled trades through competitions in which both students and the schools Crowe mentioned can win prize money.
“I’m seeing interesting things through that,” said Crowe. “I’ve seen multiple teams where the strongest programmers were 17 and under. Another big thing I’m seeing is that entrepreneurship is a big driver. I talk to the kids, and they want to work for five or ten years, then have their own company. They’ve watched their parents lose jobs, or even met older competitors who’ve lost theirs, and don’t want that to happen to them. So they see this trade as a sort of security, where they’ll always have skills to get them a high-paying career, or to begin forging their own way manufacturing their own product line.”
Crowe’s big focus across the board with all his efforts is to help leverage our young people, and especially those who might otherwise be left behind, to rebuild American manufacturing. “People should be aware that American manufacturing is the way to bring America back,” he said. “Whether you’re all about Build Back Better or MAGA, you can do both with American manufacturing. It’s not a partisan thing. It has to be here for the rest of America to thrive. That will rebuild our inner cities, lower crime rate and recidivism, improve education, and rebuild our infrastructure. I want to bring awareness to the communities who need a strong manufacturing presence and help them to bring it back. Part of it is bringing back the idea of paying a little more for American quality, and supporting all the other jobs manufacturing supports by doing that. Through the American Manufacturing Renaissance Tour, I want to help connect our manufacturers to their communities, and make them the tide that lifts all boats.”