Article Written by Jennifer Murphy from NetPlus Alliance (Where all the Top Tool Brands get together to become more awesome!)
The theme at this year’s STAFDA convention in Austin, Texas was ‘Raising Leadership,’ and I was lucky enough to have my own future leader in tow with me at the show. It was an exciting moment when Georgia Foley, the Executive Director at STAFDA, gave my son Henry a shout-out during her opening address, welcoming him to Texas and to his first STAFDA show. Henry has wanted to come to STAFDA since he was little. The keynote speakers, usually retired NFL players and coaches, or the Shark Tank stars were always a draw, but also my stories about the tool displays and the big parties hosted by the major construction manufacturers also fueled his interest.
This year’s keynote speaker was John Ratzenberger, infamous from his days as Cliff Claven on Cheers, and the only actor to voice a character in every Pixar film. John shared his passion for American manufacturing in the Travel Channel’s ‘Made in America’ show, and during his keynote address at the STAFDA General Session, he talked about the rapid decline of skilled workers and tradesman for jobs in U.S. construction and manufacturing. On October 16, following President Donald Trump’s Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America, John was appointed to the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion as a workforce training advocate by U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. The mission of the task force is to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient.
John’s keynote at STAFDA stressed the importance of ‘letting kids play’ and teaching basic building skills and how to fix things, so young people are comfortable with trial and error and making mistakes. His message wasn’t new to me, as I grew up playing outside, building tree houses and making potions out of my mom’s makeup. I loved to bake, and rode my bike for hours around town and along the Erie Canal. My parents weren’t concerned about me, because most of the time they didn’t know where I was! John shared similar stories of his love for using tools and building things with his Dad when he was young and his mission to bring back shop.
Will Henry be the sixth generation in our family distribution business? I think it is too soon to tell, but I wouldn’t know if I didn’t bring him with me to STAFDA. All of our NetPlus manufacturers were great with him, showing him tools, letting him drill, nail, grind and even snake a pipe! I am very hopeful about the future generation and their role in our industry. The advent of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in schools, 3-D printing, Robotics programs and the tremendous popularity of Lego has brought forth a new energy for structural engineering, design, and yes, making mistakes! Everyone can help drive interest and excitement to industrial and contractor trades and careers. Bring a young person to your next association meeting or convention, hire interns to work in your business and volunteer your time with a robotics team, local trade organizations or extension programs.
Together we can continue the great legacy of manufacturing in America.