NIMS’ Interim Executive Director, Montez King, recently participated in a dialogue on how diversity in apprenticeships and career and technical education (CTE) can help ensure a globally competitive manufacturing workforce. Hosted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the forum brought in experts across sectors to provide critical testimony on the State of the Workforce and the Future of Work. Mr. King spoke about his experience growing up in an underserved community in Baltimore City, and the impact CTE and, ultimately, manufacturing, had on ensuring he completed school and was positioned for long-term career success. Mr. King’s personal story is an example of the importance of engaging underserved populations to develop a diverse and talented manufacturing workforce.
Other panelists included: Dr. Aparna Mathur, Resident Scholar in Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute; Michael D’Ambrose, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Archer Daniels Midland Company; Kenneth E. Rigmaiden, President, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Dr. Nicole Smith, Research Professor and Chief Economist/Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; and, Mason Bishop, Principal, WorkED Consulting, LLC.
Montez King’s Testimony – April 5, 2017
I grew up in an underserved community of Baltimore City. Illegal drug trafficking was common in the community. Most of my friends had some level of interaction with drugs, from using to selling.
In the 8th grade (age 13), I attended an open house for a citywide vocational school in Baltimore City. A few kids in my neighborhood had applied to the school to escape from our zone school. This seemed like a great opportunity for me so I applied and chose Business Administration as my major. Sadly I did not make the cut for Business Administration. The school only accepted 90 students and I ranked 91. During the open house at the school I met Benjamin Webber. Mr. Webber grabbed me in the hallway and said he was looking for a few good black guys for the machine shop program. I thought he was crazy at the time but it was an experience I would never forget.
I was extremely disappointed about not being accepted into the school. The following Monday, my mom decided to take me to the school to see if they could squeeze me in the program, since I was so close to meeting the cut. The school counselor said she could not place me in the program but I could choose another program that has an opening. Desperate to avoid my zone school, I was under tremendous pressure to select a program. The only thought that came to mind was the invitation I received from Mr. Webber. There were plenty of openings and I was accepted!
Just a few weeks into my 9th grade year, Mr. Webber made a commitment to put me on work-study in my 11th grade year if I could get a car. I remember my first invitation to sell drugs one week after Mr. Webber’s commitment to me. The offer was 40/60 and a gun for protection on the corners. I turned down that offer. But, my choice might have been different without having the opportunity Mr. Webber presented. From that moment, I work hard and saved $400 over the next two years. I used this money to buy an old car. Mr. Webber kept his commitment to me and placed me on work-study at Teledyne Energy Systems 2 weeks into my 11th grade year.
After graduating high school, Teledyne offered me an opportunity to be a machinist apprentice. I did not know anything about apprenticeships but the offer was very attractive. The offer was a 4 year paid training program with a progressive wage schedule and paid college courses at a community college. The starting pay was $10 per hours, 40 hours per week. I remember telling my sister about the offer and her saying, “only drug dealers make that kind of money in our neighborhood”. I accepted the offer and this was the launch of my professional career in manufacturing.
Throughout my career at Teledyne, I became accustomed to working in a trade dominated by white men. I can only recall maybe 3 black employees out of 400 plus. Twenty five years later, the diversity has increased slightly but I still find minorities as a dash of pepper on a baked potato.
The machining trade was a huge game changer in my life. But, I am not special or unique. There are many people like me that are simply not aware of opportunities such as mine. As there are plenty people like me that just need an opportunity, closing the technical skills gap is highly achievable if the opportunities are visible. All they need is an opportunity!
Montez King is the Interim Executive Director of NIMS, developing national standards and competency-based credentials in manufacturing trades. Montez is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the organization.
He launched his career at Teledyne Energy Systems as a Machinist Apprentice and spent over 25 years advancing into management positions.
Montez’s academic background includes a Maryland State Machinist Journeyman Certificate, B.S. degree in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix, and a M.ED degree in Adult Education from the University of Phoenix, where he graduated with honors.