Preparing the Workforce for Today’s Manufacturing


The Mass Transit team recently had the opportunity to attend one of the 3,000 events that were going on across the United States for Manufacturing Day. We visited Freedman Seating Co. in Chicago, Illinois, along with the U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Ted Dean, Chicago Alderman Emma Mitts, and a group of local middle school students to see what a job in manufacturing looks like.

Alderman Mitts said it’s important to get to students young and to get parents involved because the kids are often hearing stories of what it was like for their parents to work in factory jobs. Mitts said, “Them saying, ‘Why would you want to work in a dirty factory?’

“Perception is key,” she continued. “People expect dark and dingy places with poor air quality, but that’s not the case anymore. There are a lot of opportunities.”

One employee we had the chance to talk started at Freedman Seating as an intern through a local high school program, Manufacturing Connect with the Austin Polytechnical Academy High School. While Torres Hughes smiled and said he may not have always made the best choices in during his earlier years, he ended up transferring to Austin Polytech because his twin brothers had gone through Manufacturing Connect and were graduates of its first year of the program.

Today, a quality inspector at Freedman Seating, he’s been employed there for 5 years and has been promoted through several positions and talked about some of the challenges of today’s manufacturing jobs. While in years’ past, it was a lot of standardized, unskilled labor, today’s technology demands a lot more troubleshooting and he said you’re constantly having to think.

Freedman Seating President Craig Freedman said there are about 800 employees and they are continually in a hiring phase as there are a lot of new people they have to go through because most don’t make it past about three months because of the new technologies making it more challenging.



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