This week’s guest may seem unorthodox at first, but she’s actually made a huge impact on future generations of Georgia Manufacturers! Annie Jorgensen, Miss Georgia 2018, joined us to share how she’s spent her last year as a titleholder helping the state with one of its biggest industrial challenges: workforce development.

Every young woman who wins the title of Miss Georgia (or any state, for that matter) spends that year as an ambassador to her home state. They partake in lots of school visits, hospital visits, and speaking engagements– but that’s not all.

It’s required that each titleholder have a platform or non-profit with whom they focus their efforts for the year. One of Annie’s first steps was to partner with Girl Scouts of America to develop the #igotthis movement movement and their self-confidence patch. Her second step? She chose to join forces with the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance.

THE UNEXPECTED WORLD OF GEORGIA MANUFACTURING

To Annie’s knowledge, none of the other 49 titleholders chose manufacturing as their focus this year. And, to be honest, she had her doubts about working in an industry so seemingly-antithetical to that of beauty pageants.

But, as she and the GMA members quickly learned…you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

“Initially when I was thinking about [working with] the manufacturing industry, I thought, ‘Okay. First of all, no one in the manufacturing industry is going to care about Miss Georgia’…and honestly, on my side, I envisioned the manufacturing industry being this stereotype. That it’s dirty. You just kind of put in your hours and then you leave. But after touring multiple different manufacturing plants throughout the state, I’m just blown away.”

Since she started last June, Annie has been sharing with many people what she herself discovered about her home-state. Manufacturing is a major cog in Georgia’s economy. Furthermore, industrial companies are struggling to connect with younger generations. Improving workforce development is a major obstacle for many of them.

“The problem with the manufacturing industry, especially in the state of Georgia, is workforce development.”

Since her role was already taking her into schools and hospitals to visit kids of all ages, Annie’s mission was clear.

MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM GEORGIA PLANT TOURS

One of the best ways to excite others is to be excited yourself. In Annie’s case, touring manufacturing facilities with the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance inspired her to spread the word about the many companies she encountered.

Of all the plants she toured, she eventually identified Kia as her favorite.

“Getting to walk in and see the plants…I have never seen a workforce that is more excited to be at work…I kid you not, every single person we rode past were waving to us, they were saying ‘Welcome to Kia!’ They were just so happy.”

Annie also hadn’t realized before just how much AI and smart technology were integrated and implemented in manufacturing plants. Companies like World Emblem, for example, recently changed their label-printing process to be smarter and more efficient.

And perhaps even more incredible than the technological advances she witnessed…were the interactions of the people themselves.

“It was just really incredible to see the innovation. And it was even more incredible to see the leadership of the company walk through the floor of the plant, talking to the employees, using their names. They knew exactly who they were, they knew their families.

“And any time an employee had a thought, a suggestion saying, ‘This could improve…this would make my life easier,’ or ‘this would make me more productive,’ they listened! And if it worked and they believed in it, they would implement it.”

There’s far more creativity in manufacturing than many outsiders might otherwise believe. Annie even met Tripp Phillips, who invented Le-Glue (temporary glue for Lego bricks) when he was just eight years old.

As well as going on the popular show “Shark Tank,” Tripp recently had the idea to switch the manufacture of his product from a pressurized can to a squeeze bag, like many popular applesauce brands. It was a simple and creative solution, but it brought costs down and made his glue easier to use.

BUILDING THE LOCAL ECONOMY

Annie’s biggest takeaway all year has been just how big the manufacturing industry is in the state of Georgia. It’s been really amazing to see how passionate all of these people are about their work.

“In LaGrange, Duracell is a manufacturer… They were saying that if you increase the sales of these types of Duracell batteries even by 10%, they would grow…I think it was almost four or five hundred jobs. Just imagine the economic development that could come in with another at least 400 jobs in that town.”

Sometimes all it takes to boost the local economy is to spread awareness, among both adults and younger generations. Resources like BuyFromGA.com can help establish knowledge for people of all ages.

“A big part of why I came on is just to raise awareness for Georgians and to say, ‘Well, you might not know this, but while you’re eating those [Frito-Lay] chips…or while you’re driving your Kia down the road, you’re supporting Georgians. You’re supporting local business.’ So it’s just making people more aware of the products that they use and where they come from.”

And perhaps one of Annie’s greatest impacts this year is on the future workforce. On many of her school visits, she shared with the students what she herself had learned about Georgia’s countless industrial opportunities.

The state even offers impressive scholarships for high-schoolers who intend to major in manufacturing, as a method of preemptive workforce development. Younger generations are often shocked, then delighted, when they find out that college is no longer out of reach for them.

“[Students] are sitting there stressed, thinking, ‘Well this is what I can do. I can’t afford college, I can’t do this.” And I’m like, ‘No, you have this opportunity. Take advantage of it!’

“There are scholarships in Georgia offered to high school students going into college or secondary education. Georgia will pay for them if they’re majoring in certain majors, to increase workforce development– especially within the field of manufacturing.

Every time I get to speak to a student, they’re like, ‘I had no idea!’ ”

Any student to take advantage of that opportunity is going to find their lives greatly impacted for the better. Similarly, Annie’s year as a titleholder may have come to a close…but her passion for Georgia’s manufacturing is going to endure.

What kind of support for manufacturers can you find in your home-state?

Some programs offer schools trade show field trips to show kids the latest in robotics. Plant tours like those provided by GMA help increase awareness in attendees of just how wide-reaching these industries are. And, of course, scholarships like those offered by Georgia can be key to workforce development.

What are you doing to inspire the next generation of manufacturers?

 

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