Engage the Youth at IMTS

If you are attending next month’s big show, take advantage of opportunities to interact with the students who also will be there.


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I walk the aisles of IMTS at McCormick Place not only to learn about new manufacturing technology, but also to reconnect with industry colleagues and friends. I also tend to people watch, finding it particularly easy to spot the students who are attending the show.

If you’ve been to IMTS, you’ve seen them, too. They’re younger than we are, tend to travel in largish packs and typically tote bags filled with pens and other promotional items they’ve picked up at exhibitors’ booths.

IMTS has a longstanding tradition of hosting students in middle school, high school and college, as well as parents, educators and school administrators, so they can be introduced to the wealth of advanced manufacturing technology on display. This year’s show is no different. The Smartforce Student Summit provides an opportunity for students not only to learn more about the equipment at the show, but also to connect with industry professionals. They’ll also have the opportunity to chat with “MTAmbassadors,” young people currently enjoying successful manufacturing careers who can share their experiences, answer questions and offer advice.

Students can also benefit from tapping the knowledge of seasoned IMTS attendees. If that group includes you, consider engaging students when the opportunities arise.

For example, say you’re checking out a large HMC with boxway construction. Ask students who are also looking at it if they understand the advantages of box ways. If they don’t, spend a minute explaining why this design element adds to the machine’s overall rigidity, making it effective for performing heavy machining work. Or, highlight a machine option such as high-pressure, through-tool coolant and see if they appreciate the advantages it offers.

Also, consider striking up a conversation about their professional aspirations and what their (and their family’s) perceptions of modern manufacturing are. Describing the machine shop that you own or manage and the career opportunities you’ve made available to your workforce might help dispel the notion that today’s facilities mirror the dark, dingy and dangerous ones of yesteryear. I’m sure they’d also appreciate insight as to what you look for in a potential new hire, not only in terms of skills, but also attitude, work ethic and willingness to learn.

2014 marks the sixth IMTS I’ve attended while working for this magazine, and I’ve increasingly tried to engage the young people at the show. I’ve also noticed that, compared to years ago, show exhibitors are more inclined to interact with students who visit their booths. They recognize that continued manufacturing excellence in this country will ultimately rest on the shoulders of young people such as the students attending IMTS (most for the first time). It’s in all our best interests to impart whatever knowledge we can upon those who show interest in our manufacturing community, so do what you can to help make the students’ visit to IMTS a more memorable and valuable learning experience.