Industry Market Trends

Friday Focus: New Efforts in Manufacturing Education

Sep 27, 2013

Manufacturing education is imperative to the strength of American industry and the restoration of  its outdated image. Initiatives to educate the future workforce come in many forms, from high-tech classroom learning to companies opening their doors to students during such events as next week's national Manufacturing Day (MFG Day).

As often reported, manufacturers face a serious shortage of workers as their experienced workforce retires and the talent pipeline loses new graduates to fields outside of the sector. While there is no single solution for the existing (and growing) shortage, here are a few ways that the industry is preparing students today from local initiatives to nationwide efforts.

PRIME Students for Manufacturing

The Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) is a community-based approach and was launched by the (SME) Education Foundation in response to the shortage of U.S technical and manufacturing workers.

PRIME funds 26 model schools (11 schools added this year) across the country that partner with local manufacturing companies to offer students a better understanding of how business works through such activities as job shadowing, mentoring, and internships. The SME foundation has provided more than $685,000 to its PRIME schools.

Most of the participating schools also offer the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) STEM program, a leading provider of in-school STEM curriculum programs.

The partnership is effective in educating students on the technical intricacies that manufacturers require to keep modern operations running, said Bart Aslin, the CEO of SME Education Foundation, in an announcement. "Today, you work with very sophisticated software and equipment on significant projects that impact people living all over the world. Manufacturers are looking for creative thinkers who enjoy solving complex puzzles and this is the kind of talent our PRIME schools produce."

Infusing High-Tech in High School Education

High-tech manufacturing is growing, and high school students, in Kingston, N.Y., will have the opportunity to prepare for related jobs in the workforce -- with the help of a $15,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation.

The grant will be used for a three-year plan for a high-tech curriculum which will begin in the 2014-15 school year at Kingston High School, according to a report in the Daily Freeman.

The program is designed to equip 125 students with the marketable skills to start careers after high school or as a primer for college.

MFG Day to Educate Students on Career Paths

Hundreds of companies across the country plan to participate in Manufacturing Day on Oct. 4 to spread awareness and educate Americans about the industry. National MFG Day is an initiative supported by co-producers Fabricator & Manufacturers Association International (FMA), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and other participants.

There are currently plans for 707 MFG Day events, including industry tour sessions at colleges. Triton College, in River Grove, Ill., for example, will host a 3.5-hour "show-n-do" program -- guests will be able to fabricate a design using mechatronics.

Manufacturers will show their workers in action -- and broaden students' knowledge of various careers. Last year during the first official MFG Day, IMT Machining Journal visited G.A.L. Manufacturing Corp. in New York, where local students watched machinists, machine operators, and various technicians in the process of fabricating elevator parts. Elsewhere in New York, students watched workers assemble a piano from raw wood to finish at Steinway & Sons.

Companies in the last stages of preparation can reference the official MFG Day Educator Toolkit, which includes resources about educational programs that prepare students for manufacturing careers, and offers compelling reasons for going into the industry.

Are you part of a new manufacturing education initiative or program? Share your story with the writer in the comments below or message us on Twitter @BethG_TN.