A recent poll asked 220 vocational and technical high school teachers the following question:
“Thinking about vocational courses, please tell us how likely you feel a student focusing on each of the following career paths would be able to find a job or a career in that field after graduation.”
These teachers were given five different industries from which to choose:
• Metalcasting• Woodworking• Machining• Tool, die and patternmaking• Welding
Take a look at the results in Table 1. Based on some simple math, 59.5% of the teachers surveyed believe it is “very likely” a student focusing on welding in high school will find a job or career after graduation while only 19.1% believe the same of metalcasting.
The results of this poll were a bit of a wake-up call to me. Sure, I knew metalcasting isn’t on the top priority list of today’s manufacturing technology and/or votech teachers. But I saw this as a larger problem for all manufacturing disciplines in which we were all in the same boat. This data says we aren’t all in the same boat; some of our industries are sinking faster than others.
Another surprising result is that machining didn’t place highest among these industries. I have had the opportunity to see several high school and college workshops decked out with some of the latest machining systems (enough to make many manufacturers jealous) and teachers beaming about the opportunities for jobs as machinists. These must be more isolated cases than I experienced.
On a positive note, this poll isn’t talking about the students themselves or their parents. However, this poll is talking about one of the biggest influences on students—their teacher. Couple the feelings of these teachers with those of the school guidance counselors (who, if we poll, would probably express similar opinions as the teachers), and our industry has an uphill battle in securing the next generation of metalcasters.
But it is a battle worth the effort. While our industry is fighting fires on many different fronts—regulations, globalization, customer knowledge and experience, pricing pressures, and competing processes, just to name a few—engaging the next generation of workers is an endeavor that rewards you as much as it does the industry. Just remember, it isn’t just the students we need to focus on. We have to win the hearts and minds of their teachers and their guidance counselors as well.
If you have any comments about this editorial or any other item that appears in Modern Casting, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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