America’s Future is in Shop Class

May 07, 2018

Shop Classes in AmericaBy: Meaghan Ziemba, Content Marketing Manager, AME

The Technology & Manufacturing Association reports in their April 2018 News Bulletin how America’s Future is in the high school shop class, and it’s up to marketing geniuses to focus on re-branding it in the minds of American students and parents. Why?

Because, the state of American manufacturing has been facing a well-known hurdle--the manufacturing skills gap. Companies nationwide are collaborating with local associations and educational organizations to develop strategic and tactical solutions in areas of the greatest need.

One major challenge the industry faces is attracting students to be the next generation of manufacturers.

College DuPage professor David McGrath included in his Chicago Sun Times article Let’s quit brainwashing kids that it’s a college degree or nothing on how today’s manufacturing jobs “are becoming more integrated, cross-disciplined, and technology driven, [so we] can’t just prepare kids for the jobs we have open today--we have to prepare them for the jobs that don’t yet exist.” Attending a four-year institution is not the sufficient way to do that.

Ken Robinson of Time Magazine, provides several reasons why schools need to bring back shop class--"Restoring the balance between academic and vocational programs is not just about job creation: it’s about raising standards of achievement overall. There needs to be a shift away from the notion that one’s success is dependent on a college education, because it’s only widening the skills gap and impairing the industry’s chance to progress nationwide."

The National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Director, Montez King, provided three key elements that manufacturing communities need to consider when building STEM education and training programs:

Expand Work-and-Learn Opportunities Across the Economy

Robust apprenticeships are one way to expand work-and-learn opportunities. Apprenticeships provide manufacturing training in parallel with weekly classes. Students learn the various skills associated with the trade and receive the necessary hands-on experience required to perfect their skills. 

Create Education Pathways that Support Students from Middle School through Career Advancement

Organizations like Alignment Rockford design and pilot tactical solutions in areas of the greatest strategic need for the Rockford Public School system. Their vision focuses on all graduating students from high school with marketable employment skills and enrolling in post-secondary education and training. They invite industry influencers to collaborate on curriculum development strategies that ensure students’ success in manufacturing positions.

Engage Industry in the Design and Deployment of Career-Related Education and Training

To restore the legacy of manufacturing in the United States, it’s going to take a three-legged stool in which the private, public, and academic sectors need to align with one another to find solutions to the challenges that the industry faces.

The Public sector needs to provide the appropriate funding for non-profits and scholarships that support manufacturing initiatives.

Local visionaries, business owners, and citizens need to work together on strategies that will help attract younger generations to the trade.

Manufacturers need to build strong relationships with trade-schools and community colleges to provide apprenticeships that students can receive the appropriate training from.

As quoted by Dirty Jobs’ TV show host, Mike Rowe, “We didn’t just take the shop out of high school, we took arts out of vocational education. And that set the stage for presenting an entire category of viable jobs as some type of consolation prize.”

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