The DeKalb Difference Blog

Decide DeKalb Program Educates Teachers to Create Workforce of the Future in Advanced Manufacturing, Automation, Logistics, and Distribution

On Wednesday, May 8th, 2024, Decide DeKalb hosted its 2024 MADE in DeKalb Graduation Ceremony honoring middle and high school educators who completed the program aimed at preparing students for successful careers in the advanced manufacturing and logistics industries.

MADE for success: Joshua Williams, Business Relations and Workforce Specialist at Decide DeKalb, celebrates the achievements of the MADE In DeKalb graduates

MADE in DeKalb, which stands for Manufacturing, Automation, and Distribution Emerging in DeKalb, is an innovative program that equips teachers with tools to engage students in careers in these fast-growing industries in DeKalb County and beyond.

This year, 10 DeKalb educators participated in the comprehensive MADE in DeKalb Educator Fellowship program. The 10-month program included site visits to the DeKalb operations of PepsiCo and Home Depot, among others, panel discussions, and regular talks from industry leaders.

“When it comes down to it, teachers are just big students,” said Isabella Urschel, MADE In DeKalb Graduate

Isabella Urschel, a DeKalb County educator and graduate of MADE In DeKalb

“When it comes down to it, teachers are just big students,” said Isabella Urschel, a DeKalb County educator who graduated from the program. “In that sense, the program addresses a universal issue in education: Teachers want the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning that will benefit their students just as much as the students want hands-on learning.” Isabelle shared that the opportunity to visit different employers and colleges in the area was also appealing.

As part of the program, teachers attended quarterly workforce webinars that also were open to students, parents, and other educators to discuss how to get teenagers more interested careers in the MADE fields.

The MADE In DeKalb Educator Fellowship is intended to help develop DeKalb’s future workforce at a time when it’s needed more than ever. An April 2024 report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute says that manufacturers could need as many as 3.8 million new workers by 2033 and that roughly 1.9 million of those roles could go unfilled if current labor gaps remain unsolved. MADE in DeKalb and programs like it work to close these gaps, both for the residents of DeKalb and nationally.

Eric Knapp, DC School District CTAE Coordinator for Manufacturing and Engineering Doryiane Gunter, DC School District CTAE Director and Joshua Williams, Business Relations and Workforce Specialist, Decide DeKalb

The Deloitte report also found that manufacturers are increasingly partnering with community organizations and educational institutions to recruit workers. And nearly all of the manufacturers surveyed said they are forming at least one partnership to improve recruitment and retention, and many are partnering with four or more organizations. These partnerships between manufacturers, such as PepsiCO, and educators, like the ones participating in MADE in DeKalb’s Educator Fellowship, are essential to both the local and national economy, and to DeKalb students’ future financial health.

“Students are drawn to the hands-on learning opportunities and the chance to explore technical colleges or trade schools, seeing real-world applications like the Marshalls Distribution Center. And visiting places like Sugar Bowl Bakery and Schneider opened my eyes to how much local businesses want to be involved in our students’ futures,” Urschel said. She also shared that participating in the program opened her eyes to the scale of local manufacturing in DeKalb and the opportunities her students have waiting for them after graduation right in their backyards.

Site visits such as this one to Sugar Bowl Bakery, allows educators to learn more about the valuable skills and knowledge their students need for success in various manufacturing fields

These kinds of programs also can help to solve the national student loan debt crisis. According to the Federal Reserve, total student debt in the U.S. has nearly tripled in the past 15 years, from over $619 billion in the first quarter of 2008 to more than $1.77 trillion in the first quarter of 2023. An alarming 40.4 million student loan borrowers left school without completing a degree as of 2021, and young adult women are more likely to carry student loan debt compared to young adult men, influenced by factors such as the gender wage gap and discrimination. Black adults also are more likely to carry student loan debt compared to young white adults, influenced by factors such as the racial wage gap and discrimination, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The average student loan debt in the state of Georgia is $27,759, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.

Additionally, the challenges of repaying student loans have profound effects on borrowers’ lives. With mounting debt and stagnant wages, many find themselves unable to fulfill important life goals, such as purchasing a home or starting a family. The burden of student loans often leads to delinquencies and defaults, which are more prevalent in comparison to other forms of debt. This not only exacerbates financial stress but also hinders economic mobility, perpetuating a cycle of financial insecurity for millions of individuals.

Jobs in the MADE industries may also tend to pay more than jobs in other industries. For example, manufacturing workers earned higher-than-average wages when compared to employees in other industries of the same education level, and advanced manufacturing paid 12% more than other U.S. industries, according to a 2021 report by the National Association of Manufacturers.  that also are considered blue collar.

“It’s so important we get teachers and students beyond the classroom and into real-life experiences, and that requires strong support from both government and industry,” Urschel added. “I feel confident turning to local businesses and Decide DeKalb for support.”

David Johnson, a MADE In DeKalb graduate and current Engineering Teacher, gets a firsthand look at the exciting career opportunities available for his students during a visit to Schneider National

For more on the MADE in DeKalb workforce development program led by Decide DeKalb, please get in touch!