BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) — As some Minnesota companies struggle to fill manufacturing jobs, some people are blaming a decline in high schools' shop class offerings.
say too many young people aren't being exposed to industrial technology
careers, in part because the federal No Child Behind Initiative has
induced high schools to shift resources toward core subject areas of
math and reading. Shop classes like machining, welding and robotics are
being crowded out, Minnesota Public Radio reported (http://bit.ly/11dIglz ).
"Those are considered elective classes in almost every school system," said Mike Lindstrom, a retired industrial technology teacher from Coon Rapids who is active in the Minnesota Technology and Engineering Educators Association. "And electives right now are on the endangered species list."
jobs in Minnesota pay an average salary of more than $56,000. But some
companies find it hard to find enough qualified workers. That includes
Graphic Packaging, a company in Crosby that builds packaging machines.
Human resources manager Theresa Schermerhorn
said she recruits across the state for people with a background in
robotics or computer-aided machines, and for people who have electrical
or mechanical skills. She said those skills are tougher to find because
they aren't valued as they used to be.
want their children to go to college," Schermerhorn said. "That's been
this last generation's push. You have to have a college degree to have a
good job. And that's not true anymore."
To stimulate interest in such jobs, Central Lakes College
in Brainerd has a career exploration day every year for high school
students. This year's drew 2,200 students from 21 high schools. There
was a high tech welding simulator in one corner and a robotics
demonstration in the other. There were kayaks, ATVs and snowmobiles, all
made from parts manufactured locally.
One student who found it appealing was Tyler McAllister, a junior from Pine River-Backus High School
whose farm background has gotten him used to tinkering with machinery,
welding and building things. McAllister wants to work in manufacturing,
but he thinks most of his classmates wouldn't consider it.
lot of people are going to the more high-end jobs, getting away from
the hands-on stuff, kind of blue collar work," McAllister said. "They're
more into video games and that sort of stuff versus being
For those students, college seems a natural step after high school.
Claire Roberts, a junior at Staples-Motley High School, is headed that way. She said her teachers don't talk about manufacturing and it's not something she thinks about.
Redemske has trouble attracting students to the machine trades program
he teaches at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. The program has room
for 22 students, but only 20 are enrolled.
so, Central Lakes plans to double the size of the program next fall,
adding classes in robotics, automation and plastics. The federal
grant-funded effort is in response to the needs of regional
The rationale seems compelling: For those who graduate, job placement is nearly 100 percent.