Why Student Work Experience Is Good for Manufacturers

giving a demonstration at a factoryA buzzword in the education industry these days is “real-world” experience. Somehow, the history of academia gradually shifted away from hands-on to hands-off, creating a generation unaccustomed to labor conditions and requirements in, you guessed it, “real-world” jobs.

In the last several decades, the lack of training for some of the most labor-heavy industries in the world, like manufacturing, has really hurt the industry. So, increased work experience is one of the major goals for many secondary schools.

Often, manufacturers will have their own in-house programs to provide work experience. Rolls-Royce offers Work Experience Programs for students between the ages of 14 and 19, in which the student visits Rolls-Royce for a minimum of one week. Emma Allott, an advanced apprentice in the program, explains, “I had little to no experience in engineering before my work with Rolls-Royce. This opened the engineering door to me. I completed both practical and technical activities on various sites . . . this showed me that I could use my creativity and technical abilities side-by-side.”

For students, one of the primary benefits of work experience is not only experience for a resume, but the chance to dabble in a variety of areas without being compelled to follow that career path for the rest of their lives.

At Kearney High School, the curriculum is changing to adapt to these ways of learning. The Kearney Hub recently announced that KHS will convert to a Small Learning Community framework where they will offer more internships and work-based learning experiences for students. Already, four students at the high school have manufacturing internships with BluePrint Engines, a part of Marshall Inc., for three-and-a-half hours every morning, Monday through Friday, to learn about re-manufacturing and manufacturing engines.

What we find interesting about this story (other than the obvious benefits of work experience for the students) is the benefit for the manufacturer. “We met with the production team and looked at areas where we would have value and work so that way we weren’t creating jobs for people to come in and do, but things that would actually help us and benefit the company so we could provide a more realistic experience for the interns as we brought them in,” said Josh Saldivar, BluePrint plant manager.

In other words, these experiences don’t just need to be useful for the student, but they can also provide real value for the manufacturer. Another way schools have been working with manufacturers is by creating labs that can be mutually beneficial, whether in the school or in an adjacent career center.

In Ohio, Tri-Rivers Career Center pairs with a technical school and Ohio State University. Instead of donating obsolete equipment for a tax write-off, businesses have been helping career centers purchase the latest machinery and create curriculum around how to run it. High school students can learn advanced manufacturing practices and make connections with area manufacturers. Now, the lab is so well-equipped that area manufacturers like Whirlpool send employees there for certifications and advanced training.

There are many ways to do this, but the moral of the story is that both manufacturers and students can work together to achieve productivity and a smoother talent pipeline. Real-world experience can provide students with valuable learning opportunities, while equipping manufacturers with future employees and even spaces for their own use. The more that partnerships like these exist, the more effective our skilled workforce will be.

photo credit: College of DuPage Fourth annual Manufacturing and Technology Career Expo 2015 44 via photopin (license)