How Government Grants are Building Interest in Manufacturing Careers and Helping Reduce the Labor Shortage
When people order a part from Wyoming Machine, they usually think quality, timing and price. What people seldom think, is just what it takes to make a part that meets exacting specifications. Lori and Traci Tapani, Co-Presidents of WMI, recently got a fresh reminder of that when Jacob Krautkremer, a Roseville, Minn., high school industrial technology teacher, spent three days with Wyoming Machine. He came to absorb what metal fabrication entails, from start to finish. According to Jacob: “I had no idea how many people it takes to manufacture a part. So many people need to work so well together to create a perfect part.”
WMI employees from the Tapani sisters and engineering, to production, quality control and packaging, eagerly assisted Jacob. He even toured a WMI vendor’s painting facility.
Government Grants Doing Good
Jacob’s internship was made possible via funding from the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act IV, passed in 2006. Its purpose is to fund programs to enhance secondary and post-secondary education and career development for technical education. Funding is channeled to career and technical education consortiums across the country at the secondary and post secondary levels. Jacob’s internship will help him develop a manufacturing curriculum for Roseville High School which he will lead, pending the passage of a bonding bill.
According to Jacob, “We’re even hoping to include internships at manufacturers so our students get real world experience that will help them know if manufacturing is a viable option before they graduate.” These days Roseville schools are encouraging students to learn about careers as early as seventh and eighth grade beginning with student interest surveys.
Wyoming Machine at the Forefront
WMI has sent employees to share manufacturing career experiences with eighth graders in area schools. And school tours at WMI? For many years. In fact, the Tapani sisters are national leaders in workforce training and development having won numerous national honors. It’s all a part of helping students find good-paying careers without a four-year degree. It’s also about filling the Manufacturing Institute’s estimate of 2,000,000 manufacturing jobs going unfilled in the next 10 years.
Reaping Results at Pine Technical and Community College
Such efforts are beginning to pay off. Pine Technical and Community College (PTCC) in Pine City, Minn., is experiencing record enrollment this fall. President Joe Mulford believes that the increased emphasis on uniting high school and technical college teachers with employers is creating better curricula and more inspired students. The increased enrollment is proof of that.
PTCC even “shares” equipment with area high schools. “We take it to them,” said Joe. “We load it in a trailer—lathe, mill, desktop CNC controller—for student exposure. They keep it for a month to try it out. No one school can purchase it all. But in a region—we can help all. We share curriculum with people, host technical education events, and bring possibilities to small schools that wouldn’t have previously dreamed of such a thing. We’re all coming together.”
Employee Development Also a Winner
Employee growth is also a factor. “The Tapani sisters have made employee development a part of their soul. It’s a foundation of their company,” Joe said. “You can get a job, but if you want a career, you’re going to need training,” Joe said. PTCC’s enrollment has increased so much that they’re adding night classes for their advanced manufacturing major. Everyone wins.”
In fact, Wyoming Machine hosts virtual classes on Interactive Television (ITC) from PTCC for employees wanting to advance their careers. They can learn and earn degrees without commuting to PTCC.
The biggest surprise for Jacob? Size and speed. ”I knew it would be high-tech, but some equipment was as big as my living room—humongous! These are automatic and hydraulic operated machines. We use hand tools,” said Jacob. The capabilities nearly dumbfounded him. Employees demonstrated their standard brake press, and then showed Jacob their new CNC model with automatic tool loading. “It was shocking. Whereas the old press took maybe 30 minutes to prepare for a run, the new CNC press was ready in less than five minutes.”
While few high schools will have the large machines Jacob saw, Jacob learned plenty about things he can teach. Welding and blueprint reading are two good examples. “If my students are reading blueprints and know how to do the small stuff,” Jacob said, “they can learn the big stuff.”
Jacob’s biggest take-away? “Given all the people involved in producing a part, I now know my students will have to learn to work well together…Students need to learn efficiency—time is money in manufacturing,” Jacob exclaimed. “So my trip to Wyoming Machine was a real eye-opener,” Jacob said.