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Getting Young People Excited About Manufacturing

Posted By Jeff Moad, September 14, 2012 at 1:07 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

Like a lot of manufacturing professionals, Terry Moody worries about the low esteem in which many young people and even some educators hold his field. Most young people still think of manufacturing as dangerous and dirty, Moody says—a dead-end, rather than the high-tech, high-opportunity field it is rapidly becoming.

“For the most part, you see young people running from the skilled trades,” says Moody, a member of the Manufacturing Leadership Council and executive vice president at Victor Technologies, a St. Louis-based maker of welding, cutting, and gas control equipment. “School aren’t even teaching skilled trades. But what they don’t realize is we still have a large contingent of manufacturing in this country, and we need these skills, particularly as baby boomers start to tail off. There is such a high demand that some companies have to leave the country to get skilled labor.”

Earlier this year, Moody saw a chance to help get more young people excited about manufacturing careers, and he jumped on it. At the Manufacturing Leadership Summit in May, Moody shared a dinner table with Karen White, principal at the Manchester School of Technology in Manchester, NH. Karen was attending the Summit as a winner of the Manufacturing Leadership 100 Award for her school’s focus on providing high school students with education and training for manufacturing skilled trades. MST gives students as young as freshmen hands-on experience working with welding, sheet metal, and CNC machining equipment—the only public school in New Hampshire to do so. Students who complete MST’s Manufacturing Technology program are ready to step into entry-level manufacturing jobs or move on to higher education. And, just as important, they receive an accurate picture of what manufacturing is all about, as well as the opportunities it offers.

When Moody heard about the MST program, he wanted to help out. He arranged for Victor to donate some of its state-of-the-art welding and cutting equipment to the school. A total of three new plasma cutting tools and three-in-one welding machines will join the school’s four existing machines, allowing a greater number of students to spend valuable time with the equipment. In addition to supporting manufacturing skilled-trade education at the high school level, the donation gives Victor a controlled environment where it can test its newest equipment for ease of use and other features.

The new equipment is just now being installed at MST, and students were so excited about its arrival that they built new welding booths and planned to record the delivery on video.

Although Victor has made similar donations to college-level manufacturing programs, the MST relationship represents the first time the company’s efforts have reached down to the high school level. Now, Moody says, Victor is looking for other ways to support skilled-trades instruction at high schools. “This has gotten our attention focused in other states on what other schools are doing of a similar nature,” he explains.

The partnership between MST and Victor isn’t the first case in which connections made through the Manufacturing Leadership Council have led to relationships that support manufacturing’s next generation. In 2010, cosmetics manufacturer L’Oréal offered students at Farmingdale State College internships after learning of the school’s manufacturing programs at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit. And, earlier this year, Manufacturing Leadership Council and Board members George Nickel of Johnson & Johnson and Michael Packer of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics collaborated to arrange for education and career mentoring for a promising young student who is passionate about manufacturing.

Each of these collaborations may touch only a handful of young people. Over time, however, they will touch more and more lives. And they underscore the power of an engaged community such as the Manufacturing Leadership Council.

“This represents one of benefits of being part of the Council,” Moody says. “We would have never been exposed to the Manchester School of Technology otherwise.”

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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Posted on
Peter Bagwell
Sep 6, 2012 7:48 AM
I think recent articles like this one, "Students Doing Production Work" (?http://goo.gl/vpwSV) and "Dream It, Do It" by the Manufacturing Institute (http://goo.gl/yYUgE) highlight the great strides in the manufacturing communities efforts to build a foundation for U.S. manufacturing.
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Posted on
Jeff Moad
Sep 6, 2012 10:28 AM (in response to Peter Bagwell)
Peter--I agree that we are seeing more signs of progress. Next the awareness of the opportunities available in manufacturing must further permeate at the high school and junior high level and it must begin to sink in with parents who, I fear, still steer their children away from manufacturing careers.
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