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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Liu

Field Work : Current Efforts to Increase Youth Interest in Manufacturing

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

September 5, 2022. The creative ways educators and employers are trying to build up the future manufacturing workforce.

Due to their roles as employers, manufacturing corporations know which specific skills workers should have to be employable. The corporations know what content manufacturing curriculums should teach and what training equipment is most reflective of current-day technology. The SmartForce show floor at IMTS 2022 in Chicago, Illinois, provided a glimpse into the efforts of several major corporations that committed to creating curriculums and equipment for elementary, middle, and high schools across America to use.

Introductory Courses

The booth for Festo-Mechatronics caught my attention first, where I noticed high-school-aged students in white lab coats sitting at desks while listening to a slideshow presentation. Those students, I later learned, came from around the world. They were participating in a four-day program to learn about manufacturing equipment. The program’s curriculum aimed to ease the youths into the complicated topic by starting at its basics. The first day covered exclusively mechanics, the second day explored electronics, the third day introduced software, and the fourth day closed off with management.

Relatable Course Content

America Makes, an additive manufacturing institute in Ohio, focuses on developing online video modules to teach students of all ages about manufacturing. Each of the eleven modules offered can be self-paced or completed with the help of a teacher. America Makes created an animated character to appear in the 10-minute videos within the modules, hoping that younger children would find more interest in manufacturing if they saw someone like them in the lessons. The modules are free, and America Makes is also developing a similar but more mature high school curriculum.

Career Finders

ARM Robotics, a research institute founded within Carnegie Mellon University, constructed a website that helps job seekers determine their ideal educational and career pathways. first prompts users to create a profile by entering their geographical locations, desired lengths of training (months to years), target training levels (certifications to doctorate degrees), and preferred program formats (online, hybrid, or on-site). Then, users are prompted to go through lists of various soft skills and manufacturing skills and mark each skill as either “Skill I Have” or “Skill I Want.” The website then analyzes all of the user’s input and, within a minute, recommends a customized set of schools or job openings near that user’s location. I was able to complete the process within five minutes without even creating an account on the website. By clearly outlining the next educational steps and career decisions users could make, removes much of the unknown that youth face about exploring the manufacturing sector, nudging youth users one step closer to a career in the field. The Career Academy in Martinsville has its students from the sixth through twelfth grades use a career finder similar to, called MajorClarity. The president of the Career Academy, Mr. Minter, stated that “we’ve seen students come through it and we’ve seen benefits, we’ve seen opportunities grow.”

Hands-on Learning

The FANUC Corporation and SMC Corporation both construct industrial equipment for schools to use in hands-on training. FANUC trains school instructors on its equipment so they can pass on the knowledge to their students. FANUC’s efforts enable educators with little expertise in manufacturing themselves to give their students exposure to the field. SMC produces several tabletop training equipment parts that, when placed together, collectively form a “palletized” production line that allows learners to visualize where in the production process each skill applies. The equipment of both corporations introduces manufacturing in an interactive manner and highlights the cutting-edge technology of the manufacturing sector to students.

Using technology

Autodesk, the software corporation that created AutoCAD, uses its popular Fusion360 CAD (Computer-Aided Design) application to keep educators up-to-date with industry technologies. The Fusion360 software can digitally model any equipment used in the manufacturing process. Mastercam, another corporation specializing in CAD, developed a digital educational suite that teaches specific skills such as milling, wiring, designing, and routing. Both the Autodesk and Mastercam CAD applications can be regularly updated to model the most advanced equipment currently used in manufacturing. Users are always equipped with the most applicable and employable skills while experiencing the dynamic and innovative nature of the manufacturing sector.

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