10/20/2011 | 3 MINUTE READ

A Case of Caring

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I’m very lucky: In my work with our CNC Educators Network, I’ve met hundreds of dedicated teachers at all levels.

One of them, Dan, is a veteran Navy machinist who now teaches manufacturing technology at Petaluma High School in Sonoma County, Calif. After Dan retired from the Navy about 10 years ago, he returned home and decided to try his hand at teaching precision machining at the local high school.

The bad news was he walked into a typical outdated high school machine shop with old machines and a meager annual budget. The good news is that Dan doesn’t let obstacles get in the way. More good news was that an arts group in Petaluma created a project to put custom-designed park benches and bike bollards around town for locals and tourists to use.

The students, with their teacher’s assistance, designed, processed, machined, formed, finished, delivered and installed 392 benches and bollards of various designs. With some of the proceeds, Dan has significantly updated his program by acquiring new CNC mills and lathes for his program. And Dan’s students have learned first-hand the entrepreneurial skills of running a complete business project.

Along with bringing current CNC machining technology into his classes, Dan became the first high school program in California to become NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) certified and his students can earn NIMS national credentials to add to their resumes. Dan also worked with his local industry advisory group and 101MFG, a northern California manufacturers’ association, to form the California Tooling & Machining Apprenticeship Association (CTMAA) and launch U.S. Department of Labor and California certified 4-year apprenticeship programs.

Dan also has a local SkillsUSA club. He is now working with a group of other local high school programs to help those teachers update their labs and programs. Although Dan is very active, dedicated and special, he is not unique.

 Dan, and many teachers like him, universally need more students coming into their programs. They need your help. The following paragraphs include some specific ways you can help those educators and, in turn, help yourselves.

Take a few hours and visit your local technical training school, meet the instructor and learn about their program. See the curriculum and the texts or online software the program uses. How much is hands-on? How modern is the equipment? Is the program NIMS certified? Does the program measure skill competencies?

Be sure to discuss the job opportunities your company has, not only with the instructor, but with the school administration. 

Take along information about your firm and any recruitment materials they should have. If you like what you see, consider being on this school’s advisory team. Find out about the school’s career days and plan to participate.

Support Students. I have seen many smart employers getting to meet and know good students while they are still in school. Work/school programs (some with employer-sponsored education) and part-time employment are two great ways to get started.

Consider providing internships, which are becoming more popular, as well as competency-based apprenticeship programs available from NIMS.

Take time to counsel students about manufacturing career opportunities. A new website outlining career pathways is CareerME.org. Consider creating a scholarship program. You can easily do this through the SME Education Foundation at smeef.org.

Learn more about student-active associations, and the work they are doing to help you. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce (SkillsUSA.org).

Attend a local, state or national Skills contest for precision machining technology or CNC machining. NIMS is the nation’s only ANSI-accredited developer of precision manufacturing skill standards and competency assessments. Additionally, NIMS certifies individual skills against standards and accredits programs that meet its quality requirements. Its stakeholders represent more than 6,000 American companies. See nims-skills.org. Become one of those NIMS stakeholders. 

It’s our industry, and with a sustainable crop of skilled employees, we can ensure our future success. 

Haas Automation Inc.