Bill Rayl – JAMA – 2013 MFG Talent Champion

Bill Rayl, executive director of the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association (JAMA), became the first-ever recipient of the Manufacturing Talent Champion award during MMA’s Manufacturing Talent Summit on 10/24/13.

The Manufacturing Talent Champion was chosen by a panel of independent manufacturers gathered from across Michigan to recognize the collaborative efforts of a community leader and his or her industry partners to strengthen the skilled manufacturing workforce. Bill Rayl certainly meets that requirement, having developed a seamless path of diverse educational programs — both in the classroom and extracurricular — throughout Jackson County. His efforts have had a ripple-effect on manufacturing interest, but Rayl would be the first to say that effect did not come easily.

“The talent issue is real,” Rayl says, “but it’s been a growing issue. This is not new — it’s been building for years.”

Programs established by Rayl, JAMA and the Jackson Area Career Center allow students to develop trade skills from more than a dozen programs beginning at the pre-K level and often culminating with enrollment in the Academy for Manufacturing Careers (AMC).

“Initially, this wasn’t about solving a statewide skills gap, it was about helping manufacturers get the resources needed to train people,” Rayl explains. “With so many people in the industry retiring and so many set to retire in the next decade, it’s really becoming more of a crisis being faced across Michigan.”

Established by Rayl in 2005, the AMC is a nationally recognized skilled-trade apprenticeship program that has resulted in more than 1,000 new skilled workers emerging from the AMC training program. Over 700 students in the K-12 pipeline and generations of Michigan families have been positively affected and will continue to benefit from the programs Rayl has built.

“This has been achieved through collaboration, through manufacturers and educators pooling their resources in a constant struggle to meet a growing demand,” Rayl says. “This only works because it is truly a community effort.”

“This all started through afterschool programs and summer camps but we have a long way to go,” Rayl says. “The way this succeeds is through the classroom, getting the opportunity to train teachers to utilize engineering and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum on an everyday basis across all levels of the K-12 pipeline. We cannot reach all kids with just manufacturers’ efforts — by putting it in the classroom, the potential impact is going to be big.”

As honored as Rayl is to be the first Manufacturing Talent Champion in Michigan, for him it is an honor belonging to the dozens of partner organizations and hundreds of people who have helped along the way.

The achievements of the AMC, the Jackson Area Career Center and similar programs across the state are the result of an industry-driven effort that Rayl believes can only be won through the emergence of new champions.

“We all have to shoulder this burden together,” Rayl explains, “We have to shoulder this burden as a community because the individual efforts would only work for a while before one small change, one obstacle caused them to collapse,” Rayl explains. “This requires a systemic solution, one that sees manufacturers getting out and knocking on school doors. I urge all manufacturers and educators to change the equation and become a champion in your own community.”

For more information about the many programs Bill has helped implement, see and

This article appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of MiMfg Magazine.