3 Lessons from a Professional Development Day at Cardinal Manufacturing

Many people in manufacturing are already familiar with Cardinal Manufacturing, a student-run business located at Eleva-Strum High School in Strum, Wisconsin.  If you are not aware of this program, check out MoldMaking Technology’s coverage, including stories and slideshows that will give you a little background. However, I was looking for more than background, and that’s what I got when I attended a workshop on how to start or grow a school-based enterprise.


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two men and women

Westminster Tool’s Director of Talent Development & Marketing Kylee Carbone (and an MMT Editorial Advisor) visits Cardinal Manufacturing with Plainfield High School teachers Bernie Dennler (r) and Tim Lafayette (l).


The Cardinal Manufacturing Team and Founder/Technology Education Instructor Craig Cegielski hosted a workshop for high school teachers called “Starting or Growing Your School-Based Enterprise Workshop.” As this was my first visit to a revenue-generating high-school program like this, Cardinal Manufacturing far exceeded my expectations. While I attended this workshop to learn how my local high school (Plainfield High School) and I could adapt something similar, there are three key findings I want to share with the entire moldmaking community: (1) student safety, (2) program sustainability and (3) community.


I am more excited than ever after attending this workshop to help Plainfield High School build a sustainable manufacturing training program.



While safety is always the number one focus of schools and manufacturers, Cardinal Manufacturing goes above and beyond to build up safety knowledge and awareness before a student is permitted to run any equipment. The student body’s deep sense of respect for the power of these machines and the necessary safety precautions are evidence of this program’s hyper-focused attention on safety.

At Eleva Strum, K-12 students are located in one building, which is very different from schools in Connecticut. This model allows students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades to attend related classes in the same area as Cardinal Manufacturing, which means some students end up with seven years of manufacturing-related training by the time they graduate as seniors.


The self-sufficiency of Cardinal Manufacturing is impressive. The program is sustainable regardless of the district’s budget because it generates revenue. They then take the profit and re-invest it in the business on new equipment, tooling or building upgrades. On top of that nothing goes to waste at Cardinal Manufacturing. If a piece of equipment can’t be used or turned into something the program can use, the students will barter or sell it for equipment that will strengthen the program.

Craig and the students used this approach to re-outfit the facility, whether it was purchasing concrete blocks to build welding booths or making upgrades to the ventilation system.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the strong sense of community both inside and outside of Cardinal Manufacturing. Early in the workshop, Craig stated his “one hand is for giving, and the other is for receiving” philosophy. Then the Cardinal Manufacturing Team explained how they provide services to the local community members and the local community supports the program. For example, students created a plow attachment for a local man’s wheelchair, so that he could clear snow, a student’s grandparent delivers lunch to workshop visitors, relatives help hang a new product and friends make repairs to broken tools or equipment in the classroom.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from such a passionate team, and I encourage anyone interested in starting a manufacturing training program at their local high school to attend Cardinal Manufacturing’s next professional workshop on January 30, 2020.  I am more excited than ever after attending this workshop to help Plainfield High School in my local area to re-create some of these concepts, so we can build a sustainable manufacturing training program.



In just seven short years, Cardinal Manufacturing has grown from one teacher's idea to an exemplary program that is revolutionizing manufacturing education. Cardinal Manufacturing is a company within a school, where students learn about manufacturing and gain firsthand experience.