Jon DeWys – DeWys Manufacturing – 2013 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award

Jonathan DeWys, president of DeWys Manufacturing, is committed to continuous improvement, community, education and leading edge technology. For Jon, his mission in life is to fix the weak spots in Michigan’s K-12 system while promoting manufacturing as a viable option for students looking for exciting career opportunities. Driven by his affinity to see young people achieve their goals, Jon has helped Michigan’s youth discover exciting new career paths, propelling them toward a future they never imagined possible Jon believes that people should go a step beyond what is expected. While most employers would be happy with what they had done, Jon went a step further and built his company’s own “university” around the idea of empowering people of all ages to reach for their dreams.

DeWys University was founded out of the need to address the talent gap in Michigan. The jobs were available but the skills of those seeking employment did not match the work requirements. Jon realized that, in order to target the next generation workforce, he would have to offer them the opportunity to learn the skills for today’s manufacturing jobs. Once enrolled, students move outside the confines of a textbook to hands-on learning with the plant machinery and expert trainers. It combines the best of both worlds — providing education and experience to create a complete learning opportunity. Jon is proud to see that DeWys University has flipped the common practice of hiring on its head.

“No other place is doing what DeWys University does,” Jon says proudly. “We are doing a lot of cool stuff in manufacturing. I want to make it sexy. I want it to appeal to people. Manufacturers take pride in their work. It’s not just about the product, it’s about the service it provides and the time spent creating it.”

The university works because Jon believes in it, the company believes in it and the West Michigan community has fully embraced it. Through partnerships with Grand Rapids Community College, Ferris State University and Grand Valley State University, the word is out about DeWys University. Internships and vigorous promotion ensures a full pool of applicants. Now, other companies are seeking to duplicate their efforts and the Michigan House Education Committee is calling on Jon to testify about methods to grow the state’s education methodology. Jon is all too happy to help.

“I see myself as a connector,” DeWys says with a broad smile. “If I’m passionate about something, it doesn’t matter who it is, I just want to talk about it. I love the idea that I’m a spark for starting change.”

DeWys Manufacturing is a small company, one with only 150 employees, but it has partnered with global leaders and become competitive on the global stage. They have seen record profits during a time when many closed their doors. Much of that comes from Jon’s passion and interest in his employees.

“We ask our employees about what inspires them and what would they like to learn,” Jon says when asked of workforce development. “I’m an open book with my employees. Trust is everything.”

Because of his commitments to continuous improvement, to the community, to building the standards of Michigan’s education system and to his work in creating an example of what good business practices are, we honor Jonathan DeWys with the 2013 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Small Tier Award.

This article appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of MiMfg Magazine.