Preparing The Workforce Of Tomorrow

Get Kids Interested Now

Columns From: 8/1/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

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It has been said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

The problem, and a challenge to everyone in the industry, is that not enough young people are choosing careers in machining and manufacturing. However, you can be part of the solution. You also can work on the challenge with a group, alone or both.

Working With Others

If you prefer teaming with established programs to attract young people to manufacturing, look into these:

  • Local or state trade association chapters—almost every machining trade association has a group working on some aspect of this challenge. For example, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) offers a learning program called “A World of Motion II” for middle school students. It entails eight weeks of real world engineering design challenges for a fictitious toy company. Each challenge focuses a team of students, teachers and volunteers toward a fun goal and links learning with discovery.
  • Your Company—if you work for a large corporation, there may be efforts in place that need volunteers. For example, Chrysler has a World of Work program where employees tutor students to help them better understand the relationship between the workplace and the classroom.
  • School to Work (STW) efforts—In 1994, the U.S. Congress passed the School To Work Opportunities Act. This gives states five-year grants if they establish a statewide partnership of agencies, businesses, organized labor, governor office representatives, non-profit organizations and educators. Most states have done so.

These state STW groups then distribute funds to local partnerships that create programs in schools. Some STW programs target elementary schools, while others focus on high schools and/or technical colleges. You can choose an age level with which you would be comfortable.

Use the Internet to determine if your state and area have an STW program. At www.stw-lc@ed.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site, you can look up STW projects by state or get general information on the program. You also can go to the National Association of Manufacturers’ Web site (www.nam.org).

Taking Your Own Path

Last year Ellison Machine Tools & Robotics formed a partnership agreement with Naperville Central High School. The partnership is helping the school’s industrial technology staff redesign aspects of the curriculum. Ellison representatives also are helping Naperville Central’s educators expand the usage of their metals lab so students can gain insight into the properties of metals. Some of Central’s teachers have visited Ellison's Warrenville, Illinois, facility to learn more about how to prepare students for roles as future employees. This year Ellison again is sponsoring a field trip to IMTS under the Student Summit Program for Naperville Central and several other area high schools.

You do not have to join an established program to reach young people. Call your high school’s technical education teachers and ask how you can help students learn about the real world of machining. When Ellison called local high schools, teachers’ suggestions ranged in time commitments:

  • Host tours of your facility
  • Offer working field trips where a part designed on the school’s CAM system is machined on your equipment.
  • Host an event for parents, teachers and students to show them how high tech today’s manufacturing jobs really are.
  • Join the school’s cooperative program and allow a student to work at your facility.
  • Talk with elementary and middle school teachers and counselors. Career education begins early in today’s schools.
  • Offer to host field trips and speak at career programs or to specific classes.
  • Offer summer jobs. There are many programs that help teenagers find summer employment, or offer summer or after-school jobs to employees’ children. It’s a way to invest in future employees.

The author acknowledges material contributed by Kay Falk, associate editor of Machining Today, a Cygnus Business Media publication presented on behalf of Okuma America Corp.

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