Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Career in Manufacturing for Jazmyne?

By: Mark Albert

Jazmyne is a junior at Pike High School in Indianapolis. She is interested in engineering and robotics. (In fact, one of her favorite extracurricular activities is being part of the school's robotics team.) Math is both her favorite and her best subject. Jazmyne is also a cheerleader and a member of the school’s show choir.

I met Jazmyne last week at Shelton Machinery, a machine-tool dealer in Fishers, Indiana (just outside Indianapolis on the northeast corner). She was one of 25 high school sophomores and juniors gathered for lunch, machining demos and presentations about careers in manufacturing.

Jazmyne and I spent 20 pleasant minutes discussing her career goals and her impressions of manufacturing. Right away I could tell from her poise and articulate responses that Jazmyne is an exceptionally bright student. I also gathered from the school’s Science and Engineering Academy Leader that Jazmyne is not only talented, but also a hard worker—the kind of individual manufacturing needs to attract to fill skilled positions, including those in design, engineering and management. In our short conversation, I did my best to point out the pluses of a career in manufacturing. One of the comments I made seem to hit a chord—that manufacturing can be a good place for inventive, creative, even artistic individuals who enjoy self-expression, especially if they like to use their math skills, too.

Jazmyne and the other 24 students invited from eight different area high schools were taking part in an event called “Connect with Manufacturing,” which was sponsored by dgs Marketing Engineers, a marketing communications agency serving the manufacturing sector. The firm is celebrating its 25th anniversary and chose to mark the occasion by providing 25 Indiana high school students—one for each year the agency has been serving its clients—with this educational experience. One of the firm’s clients is machine tool builder Mazak Corp. (Florence, Kentucky), so Shelton Machinery, a successful Mazak dealer, was happy to host the event at its showroom. There, the students had a chance to watch Mazak Integrex and Nexus machines perform as highly capable multitasking machines. They also enjoyed a catered lunch sponsored by Gardner Publications, Inc. The machines on display served as an appropriate backdrop for presentations by the speakers who included Lance Rhodes, deputy state director for State Senator Dan Coats, Chuck Birkle, VP of sales and marketing at Mazak, and Harry Moser, former president of EDM builder AgieCharmilles (also a current dgs client) and founder or the Reshoring Initiative. Together, these three speakers reinforced the message that opportunities in manufacturing are both attractive and in urgent need of being filled.

The event concluded with a field trip to Bishop Steering, a nearby manufacturer of steering components and high-precision machined parts. The facility is home to a variety of machining processes and advanced manufacturing technologies. Clean, well-lit and abounding with computerized workstations, Bishop Steering certainly represented an image that counters the dark, dirty and dangerous one that the mainstream media and popular culture often projects about manufacturing.

Marc Diebold, president of dgs and one of its founders, told me afterward that giving the students a favorable impression of manufacturing was one of the goals of the Connect with Manufacturing concept. "Few of these students get to see manufacturing and machine tools and their real-world setting. We wanted the event to reinforce their interest in math, engineering and science, as well as spark an interest in manufacturing careers." He also said it was an appropriate way for his company to support manufacturing, its clients in the industry as well as give something back to the community.

I sincerely hope that Jazmyne and all of the students who attended will catch and hold that spark as they plan their next steps for career preparation and education.

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