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Training & Education

Young apprentices

By Lynn Stanley

Camps teach K-12 students the art of metal fabrication

April 2012 - Kids in Jackson, Mich., are clamoring to attend camp despite the absence of television, video games and electronics like cell phones. Instead, the Academy for Manufacturing Careers, the educational arm of the Jackson Area Manufacturing Association, is introducing kids to the art of metal fabrication.

The camps, designed for K-12 students, teach young people about math, science and technology to engage them with hands-on projects based on the principles of metalworking. They learn under the guidance and mentoring of handpicked teachers and local manufacturers.

Like many companies across the nation, manufacturers in Jackson are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. The academy was established in 2005 to help close the gap in skilled trades.

“Initially, our primary mission was to create and provide apprenticeship programs certified by the U.S. Department of Labor,” says Annette Norris, director of the academy. “We soon began to realize there was not only a shortage of people with trades skills but that we also needed to begin exposing young people to these skill sets and to other career alternatives. We thought if we could develop a camp concept it would give us the opportunity to work with young people at any age.”

Growing trades skills
The academy is now a nationally recognized skilled trades-related technical instruction apprenticeship program. Certified as a registered apprenticeship program by the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, the academy is also a licensed proprietary school by the State of Michigan. It provides up-to-date training in multiple fields including engineering technician, tool and die maker, CNC machinist, machine builder, machine repairer, industrial maintenance mechanic, welder and mold maker. The organization also offers certificate programs for dislocated workers or unskilled individuals.

I Can Make It!, the academy’s first camp, began in 2005 with 38 students in grades four through six. Norris tapped local math and science teachers, created internships for students pursuing education at surrounding colleges and asked manufacturers to double as instructors. “At this level, we engage the kids by helping them to learn how to read basic blueprints then work with calipers and other tools to build things from the blueprint. We perform some quality inspection with them and talk about the types of jobs available in the industry.”

Projects have included building everything from windmills and catapults to rockets, robots and bridges. “We pack a lot of math and science into these projects, but the kids have so much fun, they don’t think of it as learning.” Kids who “graduate” can attend the Machining U Camp for seventh, eight and ninth graders. At this level, students learn to make products such as two-wheel carts, lawn art and camping tri-pods using mills, lathes, welders and other metal fabrication equipment.

Students in ninth through 12th grade are invited to attend a week-long seminar called Hot Rod U, which gives them a crash course in automotive mechanics, sheet metal fabrication and techniques like pin stripping. “We’re following up the course with a one-year program where students are working to restore and transform a 1930s pickup truck pulled from a swamp into a hot rod,” says Norris. “In addition to using a range of fabrication skills like annealing, welding, milling and sanding, they also have to fabricate a lot of the parts.” The students will debut the revamped pickup truck at the Michigan International Speedway during a special event in May 2012.

Attitude shift
Each of the camps also includes interaction with an area manufacturer. “For our I Can Make It camp, we hold a manufacturing night where personnel from area companies set up a hands-on activity that kids can make and take home,” says Norris. “We schedule tours of local manufacturing facilities for our other camps. We also invite the parents to attend the manufacturing night and the tours, and the response has been overwhelming. We’re already seeing the results of a shift in parents’ attitudes toward manufacturing and the career opportunities skilled trades positions can offer.”

Norris adds manufacturers have been a critical component to the growth of the camp concept. “We receive tremendous support from our local manufacturers,” she says. “They donate all of our material and supplies. We couldn’t hold these camps without their donations.”

In January, the academy added a camp called Engineering is Elementary, a purchased curriculum from the Museum of Science, Boston, which targets kindergarteners through fifth grade. Kindergarteners along with first and second graders will participate in Catching The Wind to build a windmill and learn about the simple principles behind green technology. Third, fourth and fifth graders will participate in Marvelous Machines, which gears activities around pulleys, widgets and machines that make work simpler for people.

“We now have a full K-12 program we call the educational pipeline,” says Norris. “Each camp can take between 20 and 70 kids, and slots fill up quickly. By coupling the camps with our adult programs, we can literally take someone from kindergarten to a journeyman’s card.”

According to Norris, one local company has already hired two junior high school students as interns. In its adult programs, the academy has 100 to 150 apprentices. Norris says she plans to add an underwater remote-operated vehicle camp in July and August 2012 for seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th graders. “It’s all about helping kids make the connection between camp and what they are learning to today’s manufacturing and technology,” she says. FFJ

Sources

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Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

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Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

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MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

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Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

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