A Day Makes a Difference in Changing Perceptions
Earnest efforts by shops like this one help spread Manufacturing Day’s message about the realities of modern manufacturing and the opportunities associated with a career in the field.
National Taco Day. National Golf Lover’s Day. National Talk Like a Pirate Day. It seems like there’s an unofficial holiday for virtually everything, many of which are downright silly. And yet, naming a specific day to honor a specific area of interest can have a real impact, particularly when celebrating is about more than just marking the occasion on a calendar.
Leave it to the manufacturers to make their day a day of real action. Conceived in 2012 by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) and produced annually by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Manufacturing Institute (MI), Manufacturing Day is scheduled for the first Friday of every October (this year’s edition was October 6). From the outset, the intent has been for shops to open their doors to the public in order to lay outdated misconceptions to rest and expose the true reality of what it’s like to make things for a living.
Figures from the official website show that business owners have gotten the message. However, the best showcase of Manufacturing Day’s impact and the effort behind it can be found not in statistics, but in the real-world experiences of the shops and students that this expanding initiative brings together.
The photos above come from one of many shops that have helped drive the growth of Manufacturing Day. M.R. Mold and Engineering, a Brea, California, specialist in liquid silicone rubber (LSR) injection mold tooling, first participated in 2015 and considered it a great success, says Geralyn Anderson, marketing director. Although the shop had to skip 2016 due to scheduling conflicts, leadership was eager to host students again in 2017. Suffice it to say, this year’s event exceeded expectations, attracting more than 300 young people from eight area high schools. “We had 60 students in 2015, and we had hoped for about the same this year, but people came out of the woodwork,” Ms. Anderson says. “We had to expand this event to three days to accommodate everyone.”
This success can be attributed in part to relationships the shop has been cultivating since at least 2015, when President Rick Finnie visited Brea Olinda High School to give a presentation. That same year, Ms. Anderson sat on a committee that critiqued exit interviews for seniors graduating Century High School as part of a Santa Ana United School District (SAUSD) requirement for technical students to research a specific career path. Contingents from both Brea and SAUSD schools were larger in 2017 than 2015, with 80 technical students hailing from SAUSD’s Segerstrom High alone.
Of course, the existence of local technical programs like SAUSD’s is a contributing factor in its own right, but this hasn’t diminished the need for action on the shop’s part. For instance, Mr. Finnie reportedly attended a recent school district meeting in Brea to engage officials who are trying to institute their own such program. There’s also something to be said for putting effort into ensuring students take as much knowledge and inspiration from their visit as possible. Beyond just carefully planning each stop of the toolmaking tour, M.R. Mold brought in personnel from material supplier R.D. Abbott to provide a complete picture of how a part moves from design to completion. At the shop’s technical center, where customer molds are sampled, students were treated to a 7-minute PowerPoint presentation, a close-up look at raw material (both silicone and plastic), and demonstrations of both pumping units and injection molding machines in action.
Benefits for Shop and Industry
The 2017 event also marked the start of something new. M.R. Mold has just begun conversations with various high schools that attended, including Brea Olinda High, McBride High School in Long Beach, and Segerstrom High and other SAUSD schools, about a job-shadowing program to supplement the schools’ individual technical education efforts. “Our initial thoughts are that no matter what area of our company the student may be interested in—programming, engineering—we would have them shadow someone in the shop or molding area to understand the impact that position has on the rest of the business,” Ms. Anderson says. Work with teachers and other school officials on this proposal will begin in earnest after the first of the year, she says.
M.R. Mold’s enthusiasm for workforce development hasn’t gone unnoticed by peers. For instance, a $1,000 grant from the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) helped cover the cost of bussing students from area high schools. Manufacturing Day also marked the launch of the AMBA’s Educational Outreach Award, in which three individuals from member companies, including Mr. Finnie, were honored with the opportunity to award scholarships to educational programs of their choice.
For his part, Mr. Finnie has long considered himself an ambassador for the industry. For example, he’s been known to share his knowledge among processors and competitors alike in silicone elastomers classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Penn State University and Akron University. He views such activities as particularly important in a field like LSR tooling, which, as detailed in this article from 2015, must be constructed differently than more common plastic injection molds. “If we’re going to keep manufacturing in the U.S., the industry needs to be educated,” he’s quoted as saying in that article’s conclusion.
Based on the shop’s Manufacturing Day efforts this year, his passion hasn’t waned. And based on the growth of Manufacturing Day as a whole, he’s not the only one who thinks this way. Nor is M.R. Mold the only shop with positive stories to tell about their own efforts. In an era when fresh talent is as important as it is scarce, that’s encouraging.
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