Investing in the Future of Manufacturing

The future success of manufacturing depends on the recruitment of motivated students to choose this career path and also provide quality training to adequately prepare the students for a job in manufacturing, engineering or skilled trades fields. One of the biggest issues facing most manufacturers is the number of skilled applicants.

According to Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency, 500 students are now engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at Schoolcraft and Portage Central middle schools and Vicksburg High School. Economic growth in the 21st century will be driven by our nation’s ability to both generate ideas and translate them into innovative products and services. Improving high school graduation rates and ensuring that all students are ready for college and the workforce is vital to states’ ability to compete in the global economy. State leaders increasingly view science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) achievement as a critical component of success in college, career and life.

Humphrey, along with the other businesses in the Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium, introduced Project Lead the Way to local Kalamazoo-area schools already using STEM. Project Lead the Way (PLTW), is a non-profit organization that partners with middle schools and high schools to provide relevant STEM curricular programs. PLTW improves problem-solving skills and encourages hands-on learning instead of all bookwork. For example, instead of just learning about wind turbines in the book, the students are encouraged to design and build air skimmers to learn how to integrate math with physics. This think-outside-of-the-box approach to learning is supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium. With their generosity and support, a few of the middle schools and high schools in the Kalamazoo-area are able to participate to get the program running. The goal is to eventually have all of the area middle and high schools involved with PTLW.

“We’re hoping to reach most Kalamazoo middle schools and high schools by 2016,” said Jason Luke, who organizes PLTW locally through Kalamazoo KRESA’s Education for Employment. Dave Maurer, VP of operations at Humphrey is optimistic: “I feel very strongly that once the community is exposed to PLTW, the energy will build to make it a prominent part of filling the STEM learning gap. If we’re going to be successful as a community we need to identify STEM programs that can engage a much broader population of students, especially those who are likely to remain residents after their high school or college careers.”

Recently, Humphrey, along with a few other local manufacturers was involved with PLTW as part of the Computerized Manufacturing Program at Vicksburg High School. Humphrey became involved through Vicksburg High School student Zack Glascock, who has a co-op position through the Education for Employment program with Humphrey. This co-op position, Computerized Machining was started through the Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium to nurture career interest in the engineering and manufacturing fields. For Project Lead the Way, Zack and his student team had to develop a solution to problem local manufacturers were having on the production floor. The student team then had to present the solution to the team of manufacturers.

Humphrey hopes by Investing in these students the future will be bright with skilled employees with fresh ideas.