While the lack of young people coming into manufacturing industries has been a concern for years, the situation has yet to improve, says Bill Graham, marketing manager for Kitagawa-NorthTech. Mr. Graham believes the industry as a whole needs to better support teachers who are interested in teaching technical skills and dispelling myths about manufacturing.
A case in point is Jesse Domer of Watertown High School in Watertown, Wisconsin, who teaches a program called “Project Lead The Way.” This high school initiative mixes classroom education with hands-on projects in CAD/CAM, drafting, machining, welding and other technologies. Mr. Domer’s students also compete in SkillsUSA, a program that allows students to compete in many areas associated with Project Lead The Way. The school’s shop is equipped with a range of welding equipment, manual lathes and manual mills, as well as a recently purchased CNC mill.
Nonetheless, Mr. Domer says many of the students attending these programs do not move on to further manufacturing-related education or jobs. To support Mr. Domer’s efforts, Mr. Graham recently spoke with the students in a presentation centered on dispelling some of the myths about manufacturing careers. He discovered that many still buy into such myths—that manufacturing consists of dirty, low-skilled, low-pay work without a future.
This was just one of many grass-roots efforts Mr. Graham and Kitagawa have undertaken during the past several years to reach out directly to high school students. As part of its continuing commitment to technical education, Kitagawa plans to continue such educational outreach programs. “We as a nation risk losing our ability to be competitive in manufacturing due to a shortage of technically skilled people,” Mr. Graham says. “We need to find and support (teachers like Mr. Domer), as their students are the manufacturing future. It is up to us to make sure that future is bright.”