Shop Class for First Graders?

How do we attract the next generation of manufacturers? Start them young by letting them tinker.


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The big buzz in our industry is the lack of skilled workers and how we should fix this problem. One (of many) ways to do this is to draw millennials to manufacturing. But is that enough? What if we started teaching kids about manufacturing even earlier? I ran across a cool program called the Tinkering School. The premise behind this unaccredited, no-lesson-plan school is to give kids as young as six the tools (like power drills and other “dangerous things”), supplies and encouragement they need to build things. We’re not talking just arts and crafts here (though that can be part of it). We’re talking building boats that float, zip lines that span from tree to tree, and rollercoasters.

You could learn a lesson from this school. I’d argue that in our fast-paced lives, where we call professional plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc., many kids do not have the opportunity develop a mechanical aptitude, so they don’t have an interest in it. Here’s my challenge: If you are working on a project, why not show your kids (or your neighbor’s kids) what you’re doing. Have them help. Teach them to use the power drill. Show them around your shop. By giving a kid access to this type of tinkering, problem solving and creative thinking, you are opening doors. You might even be taking the first steps of training the next generation of skilled workers.