Ambassador Program Helping to Attract Young Talent to Manufacturing Field in Bay Area

Back in 2017, as the Bay Area was reinventing manufacturing, a handful of manufacturers in the region were sending their workers into local high schools to talk about the profession and opening their factory floors for tours. The goal was to attract young talent to a profession that is expected to have an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, creating a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion, according to this 2018 study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.

It was the Manufacturing Institute’s Dream It. Do It. ambassador program that inspired a local version of the program for the Bay Area, recalled Mark Martin, a board member for the Association of Manufacturers Bay Area (AMBayArea) and the Bay Area Regional Director for Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development for the California Community Colleges. In January 2017, AMBayArea’s then Executive Director James Gardner worked with the Manufacturing Institute, the Oakland Unified School District and the region’s workforce development boards, among other partners, to launch the AMBayArea Manufacturing Ambassador Program, Martin said.

The program sends ambassadors from manufacturing companies into high schools, including those in school districts with large numbers of underrepresented and diverse populations. This is important for the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County (WDBCCC) as we focus on achieving equity in the Contra Costa workforce. We are among a number of partner organizations that support the work of the Ambassador Program.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the program’s growth over the past year and a half, AMBayArea is working to provide virtual experiences between ambassadors and students and is seeking new ambassadors for its program.

“It’s been just trying to recruit more manufacturers and trying to get more employees to participate in the program,” said Joanna Mei, coordinator for the Ambassador Program.

How the Advanced Manufacturing Ambassador Program Works

The Ambassador Program raises awareness about manufacturing careers by connecting manufacturers with students, parents, and educators, making them aware of careers in manufacturing they may not even know exist. Participating employers select employees who they think would be a good fit as an ambassador – employees who are well-spoken and comfortable playing a front-facing role in the community. AMBayArea provides the selected ambassadors with training on how to deliver clear and coherent presentations geared toward high school students.

Mei said employers choose which types of events their ambassadors attend, such as in-class or virtual presentations to high school students, career fairs, factory tours or Manufacturing Day. Ambassadors also can get involved by participating as judges for high school capstone projects or participating in mock-interview events.

Mei said the program has engaged with more than 6,000 students across the Bay Area to date.

Manufacturing Day in the Bay Area

Manufacturing Day is one of AMBayArea’s largest events of the year. It’s typically observed in the Bay Area throughout the month of October and into early November. It involves high school students touring manufacturing sites and visiting a local college to learn about manufacturing. AMBayArea organizes the visits, including the bus rides to the manufacturing sites and the college.

Emiliano Sanchez, coordinator of CTE Trades and Apprenticeships at Oakland Unified School District’s Linked Learning Office, has been involved with organizing Manufacturing Day since 2015, when planning for the event first began. He has seen it grow each year, from two high schools sending students to factory tours in 2015 to 10 schools participating in 2019, the last year of the event before COVID-19.

Employers who have participated in Manufacturing Day may expand their efforts to help recruit new talent to the field by joining the Ambassador Program to contribute on an on-going basis.

Sanchez says the work of the Ambassador Program helps to highlight the opportunities that exist in U.S. manufacturing – the career opportunities for high school students and the opportunity for our country to produce the goods it consumes.

“If we can’t manufacture the parts for the big items, where will these parts come from?” he said. “Are we going to keep outsourcing all these great opportunities? Manufacturing has great career options.”

Get Involved in the Ambassador Program

Employers interested in participating in the ambassador program or Manufacturing Day should email Joanna Mei at

Photo Caption: High school students listen as a worker at Creative Wood explains how to make a rounded reception desk during a Manufacturing Day factory tour in 2019.

Blue image with people icon
Translate »