MiMfg Magazine Jul/Aug 2022 - Page 13

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orkforce development continues to be the No . 1 challenge facing manufacturers as employers seek more opportunities to engage students via Career and Technical Education ( CTE ) programs . While labor market data points out that manufacturing pays more than any other industry sector , today ’ s high school students are looking for more than just good pay — they ’ re looking for value-added benefits such as tuition reimbursement and a healthy workplace culture , to name just a few .
Today , manufacturers focus on education and awareness , work-study programs and leveraging regional partnerships to engage tomorrow ’ s top talent . Education and awareness are so important because a career path in manufacturing now is much different than it was even a few decades ago . While employers are working hard to keep positions filled and increase their “ bench strength ,” they ’ re also working to shift the statewide narrative that has hampered Michigan ’ s most vital industry .
Education and Awareness
For years , manufacturing has faced an image problem . The 1980s saw drastic economic shifts , which affected how people viewed manufacturing jobs . When facing economic headwinds over the past two generations , manufacturing was unfairly painted as dingy , dangerous and unstable work . Now , many modern manufacturers look more like tech companies with brightly lit workspaces where employees congregate and collaborate .
The needs have changed as well . Today ’ s Industry 4.0 technology is simply vital to the industry ’ s longterm sustainability . The high school students some manufacturers are recruiting will be trained to become the software engineers , programmers and other tech pros these companies need . Bottom line , the face of manufacturing has been evolving for a long time and continues to change at a rapid pace .
Conveying this message to high school students is step one when it comes to building the foundation of future manufacturing talent , says Steve Heethuis , Training Director at Autocam of NN Inc . He and other members of the Autocam team host a variety of outreach programs in Michigan high schools in order to increase the students ’ exposure to the industry .
“ The manufacturing world is so much bigger than what most students have been exposed to ,” says Heethuis . “ If you think about it , the students we come into contact with know what teachers and doctors do , but many of them don ’ t know what a machinist , technician or automation engineer does . We help provide that visibility for them , which opens them up to career possibilities they might not have ever heard about before .”
When trying to make a meaningful connection with a student , it ’ s important to give them something
July / August 2022 MiMfg Magazine 13
tangible that helps them visualize what the day-to-day looks like . That ’ s why , when it comes to presenting to students and teachers , Heethuis and the team at Autocam get a little creative .
“ When the students have the opportunity to do a hands-on , tactile thing , it connects and it gets their attention ,” says Heethuis .
For example , at a recent classroom presentation , the Autocam team challenged the students to build an automation cell in under a few minutes using parts that were provided . It was a great way to get the students engaged in something physical while also being able to talk big picture when it comes to choosing a manufacturing career .
The manufacturing world is so much bigger than what most students have been exposed to ... the students we come into contact with know what teachers and doctors do , but many of them don ’ t know what a machinist , technician or automation engineer does . We help provide that visibility for them , which opens them up to career possibilities they might not have ever heard about before .
— Steve Heethuis • Autocam of NN Inc .
“ There are 50 spots on a tray , and the students had to try and put these tiny fuel injector nozzles into a tray . Nobody was able to finish a tray in the two and half minute time limit ,” says Heethuis . “ So that opened the door for our team to talk about how they use programming , robotics and automation to do that type of task .
“ The value add isn ’ t in loading a tray , it ’ s being able to think strategically and provide that part for a customer .”
Engaging with the teachers is also an important aspect of generating that initial interest as they can become your best advocates , says Heethuis . Autocam has even gone so far as sending in their own personnel to teach lessons for a day .
“ We ’ ve had our chemists go out to advanced chemistry classrooms and teach lessons ,” says Heethuis . “ We ’ ve also had project managers and mechatronics engineers do presentations at high schools , talking about what mechatronics engineering looks like .”
The Benefit of Work Study Programs
Work study programs have always been a great way to steer students toward careers in manufacturing . The big draw is that these programs add practical ,