The Century Foundation (TCF) and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) today announced the addition of four prominent regional workforce organizations to its Industry & Inclusion Coalition, a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in manufacturing. The new organizations, which together have received nearly $100 million in Department of Commerce grants in recent years, are the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (Northeast OH); Detroit Future City and SEMCA Michigan Works! (Detroit, MI); and the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development (Chicago, IL). They join existing coalition members including eight workforce development organizations and 12 community colleges.

The Industry & Inclusion program (I&I), funded by Lumina Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, and ECMC Foundation, launched in 2020 in response to the need for inclusive economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition aims to increase the diversity of the manufacturing workforce by reducing racial disparities in student outcomes including enrollment, depth of learning, and credential attainment. To date the project has completed two program cohorts, with each new cohort representing an increase in geographic scale. The first cohort focused on eight manufacturing training providers working at the community level, while the second included 12 community colleges.

“The Century Foundation is pleased to launch our third Industry and Inclusion cohort, which expands the program to the ecosystem level in partnership with diverse stakeholders including workforce development organizations, educational institutions, and industry across regional manufacturing markets,” said Michelle Burris, TCF Fellow and co-manager of the Industry and Inclusion Cohort. “We look forward to continuing our progress closing racial gaps in the manufacturing talent pipeline, spurring inclusive economic development and innovation.”

The expansion of the I&I program reflects the fact that regional-level interventions are critical to advancing inclusive workforce and economic development, as key considerations, such as credentialing and financial aid, are regulated at the state level. Additionally, statewide manufacturing associations and sectoral partnerships play a vital role in developing successful approaches to recruitment, instruction, and employment. While manufacturing stakeholders recognize the need to recruit a more diverse workforce, many do not have the understanding or knowledge to effectively update outreach or instructional approaches in ways that serve students of color.

“We’re thrilled to welcome three visionary teams led by Detroit Future City, SEMCA Michigan Works!, Ohio Manufacturing Association, and Cook County Bureau of Economic Development to our third Industry and Inclusion Cohort,” said Tanu Kumar, Co-Director at the Urban Manufacturing Alliance. “UMA works to transform manufacturing ecosystems into drivers of equitable development that puts communities first. As part of this coalition, we will support and deepen the impact of our teams, as together, we implement a systems-change approach to tie unprecedented federal investment in this sector to long-term career pathways for underrepresented communities.”

The I&I program’s novel credentialing approach, called Impactful Credentialing, helps training providers embed culturally competent practices within manufacturing pathways to drive change around racial equity in the manufacturing sector. The impactful credentialing model pursues relationship-building as a key strategy and centers approaches that foster belongingness and equity for workers and communities, such as trauma-informed care, cultural competency, and racially-conscious industry partnerships.

“The Industry & Inclusion Program’s focus on leveraging federal investments to bolster inclusive growth is a key part of promoting racial equity across the nation,” stated Chauncy Lennon, vice president for learning and work at Lumina Foundation. “We are proud to be working with The Century Foundation and Urban Manufacturing Alliance to help adult learners – particularly adults of color – gain access to the opportunities and resources that support success in higher learning, and lead to quality jobs.”

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on domestic manufacturing and communities of color. The pandemic disrupted global supply chains, leading to production delays and shortages across multiple industries. Many domestic facilities faced closures, reduced capacity, and operational challenges due to supply, health, and safety concerns. Communities of color, which are often disproportionately represented in frontline manufacturing jobs, bore the brunt of the economic downturn, job loss, and financial instability, exacerbating existing disparities. Additionally, structural inequities in healthcare access left these communities more vulnerable on multiple levels.

Recognizing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on marginalized communities, the Biden administration has made equity a central focus of their recovery plans. Through the Investing In America portfolio, the administration has driven unprecedented levels of public and private investment in regional economies across the nation, focused on bolstering manufacturing, rebuilding infrastructure, and driving innovation in clean tech while simultaneously promoting racial and economic equity.

Over the next two years, the Industry & Inclusion 3.0 cohort will leverage their regional networks to advance diversity and equity in workforce development. As recipients of either Build Back Better or Good Jobs Challenge grants, the four new members are heavily focused on innovative and inclusive activities that will propel local economic recovery and reshape labor dynamics to serve historically marginalized communities. Together, these partnerships will support more impactful credentialing programs that not only provide skills and competencies needed for employment, but also prepare the workforce for career mobility and positive employment outcomes.

Each new cohort member will form a regional team to participate in the I&I program, including an industry association member, a community college, and an economic development or community-based organization. The teams will attend quarterly meetings where learnings and best practices are shared; engage in technical assistance sessions focused on novel approaches to inclusive development; and closely monitor progress in meeting equity goals. This approach seeks to increase levels of credential attainment and promote equitable job placement in manufacturing among diverse communities.

Quotes from new I&I cohort members:

“Cook County is grateful for the opportunity to engage in the Century Foundation and Urban Manufacturing Alliance’s cohort-based Industry and Inclusion Program,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “This program promises to equip Cook County’s Bureau of Economic Development staff with essential technical support while connecting them with a dynamic community of professionals, including workforce practitioners, training providers, community colleges, and employer partnerships from across the Midwest. All of us share a steadfast commitment to advancing equity and enhancing accessibility to career pathways in the manufacturing sector for residents in Cook County’s south and western suburbs and the west side of the city.”

“The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association is excited to join the Industry and Inclusion (I&I) Coalition. Ohio’s commitment to cultivating a strong manufacturing workforce has never been more critical, particularly in the face of current economic challenges. Through this coalition, we will amplify our collaborative efforts around credentialing and outreach strategies to foster long-term career advancement for communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in the manufacturing industry.” stated Sara Tracey, Managing Director of Workforce Services.

“A technological shift is underway that will propel the traditional automotive industry in the Detroit region into an era of advanced mobility, including electric and autonomous vehicles,” stated Anika Goss, President and CEO of Detroit Future City, which is participating in the Industry & Inclusion program along with Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA Michigan Works!). “Our goal is to ensure that the jobs and business opportunities that accompany this industrial transformation are equitably inclusive of and available to all residents of the Detroit region, and in particular residents that have been historically excluded from these industries.”

“Detroit Future City and SEMCA Michigan Works! are excited to announce their participation in the Industry & Inclusion program,” stated Nicole Brown, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Detroit Future City. “SEMCA Michigan Works! is a key player in workforce development in Southeast Michigan and leads the Talent Transformation pillar for the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) Initiative, funded by the Economic Development Administration as part of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge Grant.”

J.V. de la Fuente, Director of Regional Initiatives and Grant Compliance at SEMCA Michigan Works!, shared enthusiasm for the program, stating, “SEMCA Michigan Works! wholeheartedly joins Detroit Future City in the Industry & Inclusion program, ensuring the success of the GEM Initiative in fostering career pathway advancement for historically excluded communities.”