This October marks the second year of Stanley Black & Decker’s Maker Month, 31 days of various programs that invite students to explore creativity, design and connection. This year’s activities include an innovation challenge for grades 9-12 student teams, trade and vocational scholarships, and networking events for students to learn more about careers in manufacturing.
The Fortune 500 giant specializing in tools, household hardware and security products hopes these initiatives will engage 45,000 people in 2019 alone. By 2030, the company hopes to inspire 10 million “makers.” Why 10 million? That’s the number of manufacturing jobs that remain unfilled worldwide because of a lack of qualified workers.
“There is a skills gap that needs to be filled,” Abigail Dreher, director of public affairs at Stanley Black & Decker, told TriplePundit in an interview. “We want our employees to thrive, and we want the next generation to be able to excel as it comes into this field.”
Plenty of companies donate money to schools and send representatives to career fairs - but the actions Stanley Black & Decker has been taking go far beyond such gestures.
The company reaches students in different age groups in distinct ways. For elementary and middle school students, it’s exposing them to the possibilities of manufacturing and technical careers. For high school and college-age students, the company connects via internships and apprenticeships. Finally, at the career-ready level, Stanley Black & Decker works to make sure employees have the necessary skills to adapt to new technology and programs.
One indication of the longer-term impact Stanley Black & Decker hopes to make can be found in the award for this year’s “Making for Good” challenge—part of the company’s Innovation Generation initiative, a collaboration with the curriculum developer Discovery Education.
Teams of two to four grades 9-12 students have until January 30, 2020 to submit proposals for product designs that achieve environmental or social good. The top three teams will receive cash prizes. Along with $15,000, the winning team will be offered a virtual mentorship with Stanley Black & Decker.
For students entering the next chapter of their learning, Stanley Black & Decker is also granting secondary or post-secondary scholarships. This year, it will award five students with $10,000. Individuals can submit applications from October 21 to November 15.
On a more casual and grassroots level were this October’s learning days. Across the globe, Stanley Black & Decker opened its facilities to tours and activities, conducted panel discussions, and even partnered with schools and organizations to lead Maker Month activities.
But Maker Month is bigger than October. Stanley Black & Decker says it is determined to continue the relationships it forges with students and schools through the years. In its first annual Maker Month in 2018, the company made a commitment to create maker spaces for two schools. The company is still working with those schools to build out those spaces to their needs and liking with the best tools and resources available, Dreher says.
When asked what business benefits the hardware company has seen from empowering makers, Dreher points to the company’s own workforce. Having a common rallying cry, she says, is powerful for not only empowering employees, but also attracting the best talent.
Developing a unified workforce is not as simple as it may sound. According to a 2017 Gallup report, only 33 percent of U.S. employees feel engaged at work. And a study led by The New York Times and the Harvard Business Review revealed that employees are more satisfied and productive when they feel their work has a higher purpose. That result carries across both white- and blue-collar industries and job functions.
For Stanley Black & Decker, its unifying purpose is “for those who make the world.” Dreher says employees are aware that “it’s not just about us—not about us creating the tools. It’s the next person who’s going to use that tool and that innovation, and what are they going to do with it? How can they change the world?”
The company’s values impel it not only to inspire its workforce, but also to educate. As part of its wholistic investments in manufacturing, Stanley Black & Decker makes sure its employees are taken care of.
“We want to make sure our employees who have been working here for 10, 20, 50 years can manage new technology, that they’re not displaced by the different programs that are coming in,” Dreher says. The company teaches workers through strategic employee pairings and also by partnering with local schools and community colleges to train employees on new technologies.
Deloitte’s most recent study on the manufacturing skills gap estimates a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion due to unfilled manufacturing jobs in the next decade. The report identifies three factors influencing this shortage: the introduction of advanced technologies and automation, misperceptions about manufacturing jobs, and retiring baby boomers.
While boomers continue to retire, Stanley Black & Decker is training the next generation of innovators and makers. The company announced this month that it will partner with Autism Speaks to establish a community college program called NxtGen that trains those with autism for skilled-labor jobs in manufacturing.
In the end, Stanley Black & Decker’s higher aim is for Maker Month to become larger than the company itself, a grassroots movement where students, parents, teachers and schools rally behind what it means to be a maker, Dreher says.
The company’s corporate responsibility activities during Maker Month and beyond not only provide an example to others in the manufacturing sector for how they can make a difference in their own industry, but it also shows how purpose-driven leadership in any industry can empower a workforce for good.
Image credit: Stanley Black & Decker
Roya Sabri is a writer and graphic designer based in Illinois. She writes about the circular economy, advancements in CSR, the environment and equity. As a freelancer, she has worked on communications for nonprofits and multinational organizations. Find her on LinkedIn.