Inclusion Camps creating opportunities in manufacturing careers

A new program opened new opportunities for young adults with disabilities who joined manufacturing camps across the Midwest. Hosted by Nuts, Bolts, & Thingamajigs (NBT), the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), two Inclusion Manufacturing Camps were launched aimed at showing local employers that this group of individuals is a viable option to meet their workforce demands. Held in the Chicago area and the second in Appleton, Wisconsin, the programs were made possible by donations from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) and Nestlé USA.

"At the heart of the NBT Inclusion Camps is the opportunity to provide real pathways to meaningful careers to those who have been underserved," said Ed Dernulc, Director, Foundation, Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. "We are grateful to our partners, to these local communities and to the broader metal fabrication industry for their commitment to strengthen our future workforce in such a positive manner."

NBT hosted an Inclusion Camp at Triton College in River Grove, Ill. and a second camp was hosted by VPI, Inc. (formerly Valley Packaging, Inc.), in Appleton, Wisc. Each four-week camp program allowed participants to engage in interactive activities designed to improve job readiness and ‘soft’ skills, help individuals gain confidence in their abilities and provide opportunities to explore careers in various manufacturing environments. During the VPI Camp, participants were offered paid work experiences on a variety of VPI's packaging production lines to develop the ‘hard’ skills needed for manufacturing jobs. In addition, they toured several local employers to learn about the wide variety of industries and jobs in manufacturing.

"Our vision is to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives," says Kevin R. Webb, who serves as senior director of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) and Sustainability and Social Impact with Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. "We see the NBT Inclusion Camps as a unique way to introduce youth with disabilities to job opportunities and help develop a pipeline of talent for the manufacturing industry. MEAF is proud to support this innovative program and see it expand around the country."

"Through our partnership with NBT, Nestlé is working to help empower and prepare the next generation to make their impact in the world," said Detlef Krost, Chief Technical Officer, Nestlé North America. "NBT's summer inclusion camps help people gain hands-on experience, strengthen their skills, and increase awareness of career options in the manufacturing industry. We're excited to support this program throughout the U.S. and continue to engage with future talent by providing access to opportunities in manufacturing."

The Inclusion Camp model is an expansion of NBT's traditional Summer Manufacturing Camps, designed for students aged 12-16. Over 160 NBT camps were hosted at community colleges and technical schools across the U.S. and Canada in summer 2022.