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Push for Technical Education Gains Momentum

Peter Mancini
By Peter Mancini Educational Programs Manager, CNC Software Inc.

Workforce development, like many economic factors, is subject to supply and demand. This is sometimes called the “push-and-pull equation.” The employers represent the “pull” and training represents the “push.”

The good news for manufacturing, which has been pulling so hard the rope is fraying, is that the push for career and technical education is building and helping to put a little more slack in that rope.

Our company continually advocates for career and technical education, so it is great to see that almost half of US states have passed laws promoting it.

For example, in Maine career and technical education is now taught in all middle schools. That thrills me because the sooner kids are exposed to making something, the more likely they will continue on that “maker” track.

In Missouri, students can now earn a career and technical education certificate in addition to their high school diploma. In Kansas, a state law pays schools up to $1000 for each student who graduates from high school with an industry recognized credential. Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Texas, Oregon and other states have passed similar laws.

These laws may have real impact. After all, advancing technical education is not just about educating the students and their parents about manufacturing careers—the school system has to be on board, too, and especially the guidance counselors.

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Middle school students in machine shop class.

Success in Connecticut

Our home state of Connecticut has a technical high school system that preps about 10,200 students each year. Of those, about 1560 are in the manufacturing cluster that includes automated manufacturing technology, precision machine technology, and mechanical design and engineering technology. CNC Software is among the many beneficiaries of that technical high school system—whether by having access to a talented pool of skilled employees to hire or by having them eventually as customers.

How about you? How can you get involved? The grassroots efforts in career and technical education are ubiquitous. While many schools do a great job of having a person or a group dedicated to industry outreach (some even have a job placement service), there are plenty of ways individuals can get involved.

At CNC Software, our reseller partners are often the conduits for that workforce push-and-pull equation. Many coordinate efforts to match schools with local companies so that the schools understand the demand for workers in their region, and the local employers know where to go to recruit skilled graduates.

For yourself or as a company project, you might consider offering on-site assistance or support in engineering-related competitions such as FIRST Robotics or SKILLS USA. If your local middle schools and high schools have manufacturing technology departments, you might volunteer to be on their advisory boards to help suggest curricula and assist in other ways.

One of the keys to successfully developing the manufacturing workforce is improving the reputation of available jobs, thereby making career and technical education a more viable option in schools. Do your part to educate the young people in your life that machining jobs are not “dirty” jobs.

Those drawn to business and the arts also have a place in today’s manufacturing companies. Non-technical career paths such as graphic design, writing, accounting, industrial psychology, human resources, customer service, shipping, public relations, marketing and management all have a place in the manufacturing sector.

No matter what their talents and interests, young people today want to be associated with advanced technology. As manufacturing trends toward the “digital factory,” young people will want to be part of it.

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