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Education Week contains an article by Scott J Cech, titled “Made in America.”
Aspiring to a job in manufacturing, in these days of off-shored labor, sounds almost quaint. But those jobs have not all disappeared. According to data from the government, even though manufacturing in general continues to shrink as a proportion of the US economy, domestic high-tech manufacturing has been expanding. There is a need for skilled workers.
Students in San Antonio are hearing encouraging messages from employers: we want to hire you; right out of high school; we’ll even pay for college.
A class for high school students at Manufacturing Technology Academy (MTA), a 4-year-old dual enrollment program on the southwest campus of the two-year, public St. Philips College, allows juniors in high school to pick up 30 college credits along with their diplomas, if they complete the course.
And that’s enough to get them hired as skilled employees, which many are.
MTA now has 28 students, and it could take a lot more. The MTA’s shop floor has about $1.5 million worth of state of the art manufacturing equipment.
Would-be MTA students have to pass at least one of St. Philip’s three placement exams in reading comprehension, English, and elementary algebra, or earn passing scores on the state’s Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). They must also maintain a C average in their coursework and keep up with the blistering pace of the college-level manufacturing class.
The program places about 70 percent of its graduates in jobs. The graduation rate is about 68 percent. “A lot of kids, they don’t show up,” says Ernest Gil, the MTA’s coordinator. “These guys go 100 miles an hour with their hair on fire. If you miss three days, you’re lost.”
Starting with their junior year, students in the MTA’s program catch an early bus for morning classes and shop work, then get a ride back to their regular schools.
The school districts also pay for student’s MTA books and for an optional three-week summer class for middle school students interested in machine work.
Between their junior and senior years all MTA students must work 40 hours a week in an eight-week internship. They earn from $8 to $12 an hour.
The program can help students who are struggling academically and financially to see a practical application to what they learn in class, and give them a reason to stay in school and graduate, says Marivel Nanez, the coordinator of the MTA when it took its first class of juniors in 2004.
Nanez says students can see at the end there’s a company; and the company can possibly help pay for college; many of the companies offer that as an incentive.
The program was driven by business. Academies are only created when business tells a college they want it, and they are willing to contribute to it. Nanez remembers the urgency expressed by the San Antonio Manufacturers Association when it reached out to the Alamo Community College District.
A 2006 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that between 1983 and 2002, while low- and middle-skill manufacturing jobs declined quickly, high-skill manufacturing employment rose 37 percent — an increase of about 1.2 million jobs.
Steven Valdez, the human-resources and training manager of Chromally Power Services in San Antonio says he has experienced that first hand. “We can’t find enough skilled people, we have to go out of state. I’ve had to go to Tennessee and Georgia to find people. That’s crazy.”
A US Bureau of Labor Statistics list of the kinds of jobs:
Team Assemblers: Work as part of a team having responsibility for assembling an entire product or component of a product. Assemblers can perform all tasks conducted by the team in the assembly process and rotate through all or most of them. They may participate in making management decisions affecting the work; team leaders who work as part of the team should be included. (Projected need: 265,000 employees)
Maintenance and Repair Workers (General): Perform work involving the skills of two or more maintenance or craft occupations to keep machines, mechanical equipment, or the structure of an establishment in repairl. Duties may involve pipe fitting, boilermaking, insulating, welding, machining, carpentry, repairing electrical or mechanical equipment, installing, aligning, and balancing new equipment, and repairing buildings, floors or stairs. (Projected need: 174,000 employees)
Industrial-Machinery Mechanics: Repair, install, adjust, or maintain industrial-production and -processing machinery or refinery- and pipeline-distribution systems. (Projected need: 67,000 employees)
Helpers — Installation, Maintenance and Repair Workers: Help installation, maintenance and repair workers in maintenance, parts replacement, and repair of vehicles and industrial machinery, and electrical and electronic equipment. Perform duties such as furnishing tools, materials, and supplies to other workers, cleaning work area, machines, and tools, and holding materials or tools for other workers. (Projected need: 58,000 employees)
Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics (Except Engines): Diagnose, adjust, repair, or overhaul mobile, mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment, such as cranes, bulldozers, graders and conveyors, used in construction, logging, and surface mining. (Projected need: 42,000 employees)
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipment: Repair, test, adjust or install electronic equipment, such as industrial controls, transmitters and antennas. (Projected need: 33,000 employees)
Multiple Machine-Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic: Set up, operate or tend more than one type of cutting or forming machine tool or robot. (Projected need: 20,000 employees)
Molders, Shapers, and Casters (Except Metal and Plastic): Stone cutters and carvers, manufacturing — Cut or carve stone according to diagrams and patterns. Glass blowers, molders, benders and finishers — shape molten glass according to patterns. Potters, manufacturing — operate production machines such as pug mill, jigger machine, or potter’s wheel to process clay in manufacture of ceramic, pottery, or stoneware products. Molding and casting workers — perform a variety of duties such as mixing materials, assembling mold parts, filling molds, and stacking molds to mold and cast a wide range of products. (Projected need: 13,000 employees)
Welding, Soldering and Brazing-Machine Setters, Operators and Tenders: Set up, operate, or tend welding, soldering, or brazing machines or robots that weld, braze, solder, or heat-treat metal products, components, or assemblies. (Projected need: 13,000 employees)
Medical Equipment Preparers: Prepare, sterilize, install, or clean laboratory or health-care equipment. May perform routine laboratory tasks and operate or inspect equipment. (Projected need: 12,000 employees)
source: Education Week article 3/26/08 by Scott J Cech. Read it for more details. www.edweek.org
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