Using Manufacturing To Train Our Educators

By Cindy Paris, Tech Tool & Mold, Inc.In an effort to increase understanding, educators get manufacturing lessons at high-tech companies in the Educators in the Workplace program.

You may be surprised to learn that few educational programs taught in our schools today aim to help students make the connection between what they do in the classroom and how the classroom lesson will apply in the working world. 
That's the struggle faced daily by Richard Gosnell, a science and physics teacher at Cambridge Springs High School in northwestern Pennsylvania.  In an effort to bridge this gap in his classroom, Gosnell became a student in the high-tech workplace of a precision injection molding company for a week.
The Educator in the Workplace program offers educators the opportunity to participate in weeklong externship at a local business. Each educator participates in a five day, 40 hour training program that includes orientation, education on the specifics of the company serving as the externship site and debriefing meetings. 
The goal of the program is to improve education by bringing school-based and work-based learning closer together.  This helps both the student and the educator make a better connection between lessons learned in the classroom and how those lessons apply in the work world. Educators pay a fee of $50 and receive 50 hours of credits for their efforts.
“When I started this project, I had hopes of perhaps learning more about computer aided design and possibly some metalworking skills that I could use to help with a robotics program. While I did learn these things, I learned so much more from the staff of Tech Molded Plastics that I can now take back to the classroom,” Gosnell said. 
“I learned about lean manufacturing, about running a successful business and the important role played by quality and marketing.  In addition, I learned what skills high-tech employers are looking for in employees and—most importantly—how working together to solve problems can make the difference between success and failure.”
Tech Molded Plastics is a precision tooling and mold making facility founded in 1973.  Located in Meadville, Penn., it has earned a reputation for community involvement as well as world-class molded products for the medical, automotive, aviation, consumer and electronics markets.
Gosnell enrolled in Educator in the Workplace through Crawford County’s School to Work partnership and was instrumental in his school’s participation in BattleBots IQ, a sports program that uses robotics. He said the BattleBots experience was valuable for his students, helping to teach them skills they normally would not encounter in the classroom; applied math and physics, business and manufacturing, along with time-sensitive problem solving and teamwork. 
Gosnell finished his week in the Educator in the Workplace program by creating four prototype chassis using materials donated by Highpoint Tool and Machine during the BattleBots program.  He plans to use the chassis in lean manufacturing exercises to help students learn teamwork and communication skills, while familiarizing them with the tools and materials they will encounter in the BattleBots IQ program.
“Tech became involved with the Educator in the Workplace program because we believe in improving the quality of learning that students receive.  The life-lessons taught in BattleBots IQ and the Educator in the Workplace programs expose students and educators to skills that they can use not only for high tech careers, but for careers in business and life in general,” said Tracy Coon, Tech’s Human Resource Manager.
As Gosnell closed out his weeklong experience in the high-tech molding company, he said, “The employees at Tech helped me focus on fundamentals and assisted me in coming up with a project I can take back to my classroom to help impart these valuable lessons to my students.”
Tech and Gosnell were connected through shared interest and participation in the BattleBots IQ Program the local chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) sponsored in May. Tech is a major sponsor of the event, and Gosnell was the primary adult supervisor for two Cambridge Springs High School BattleBots teams.
In recent years, Tech Tool & Molded Plastics and the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the NTMA have taken on the challenge of changing the perception of manufacturing careers. 
“Our industry is facing a real challenge in continuing to find skilled workers to fill the many high tech positions available,” said Scott Hanaway, president and CEO of Tech Tool & Molded Plastics and president of the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the NTMA.
“Our local NTMA chapter is making a real effort to reach students at the age that they are making career decisions and to change the perception of the industry, not only with the students, but with their parents and educators.  Through programs such as the Educator in the Workplace Program and the BattleBots IQ Program, we are making a difference and we are creating a renewed interest in manufacturing careers,” Hanaway said.
To learn more about this program, click here.