Partners in Educating the Next Generation of Builders

Our 2017 series on education/training and workforce development has opened the flood gates to efforts across North America focused on building our next generation of moldmakers. Here is a guest blog post on another industry supplier that has supported local mold builders by donating equipment to a Michigan high school manufacturing program.  
#education #leadership


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Lincoln High School in the Van Dyke Public Schools district has been preparing students to transition from high school to post-secondary or college for many years. In 2010, the Board of Education supported the building of a state-of-the-art Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center to house their CTE programs. Two of these programs, Mechanical Drafting/Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Manufacturing Technology, represent opportunities for high school students to learn skills that will prepare them for high-wage, high demand positions right in south Warren and Macomb County.

Over the past few years, the CAD and Manufacturing programs have been partnering with local companies for the benefit of students and employers; the end result being highly trained student interns and graduates who are able to “step” right into positions in their local communities. This partnership began when teacher Fred Cook began inviting local companies to visit their programs, and provide input twice a year on their Advisory Board. Rick Hecker, President of Eifel Mold & Manufacturing in Fraser, Michigan, has served as the advisory Chairperson for the past several years. In this capacity, Mr. Hecker has invited additional local manufacturing companies to the dialogue and the results are amazing!

The Advisory Committee includes: Midwest Mold, Precision Mold, True Industries, Grant Group and Paslin Corporation. Their collaborative commitment to preparing students to enter the workforce or college is remarkable. Students have countless opportunities to tour, job shadow, obtain co-op positions, and even full-time employment through this partnership. Each year, students spend a half day at Eifel learning the “art to part” process of design and manufacturing, with an opportunity to leave with a product they have created! In conjunction with Macomb County’s Manufacturing Day Tours, students are able to visit additional companies on the first Friday in October to see the “real world” of manufacturing.

Perhaps most notable is the students who held co-op positions within these companies or became full-time employees upon high school graduation. Mike Owen, a 3rd-year full-time employee at Eifel Mold says, “I came here and they brought me in with open arms. They saw I had potential. The shop has a great group of people that like teaching.” At the last job shadowing day, Owen proudly taught the students at LHS the skills he had learned. Steven Kish, who Hecker hired based upon Owen’s recommendation, is enjoying working at Eifel as well. “I really enjoy it. I see it as a career. I feel pretty fortunate. These jobs are in demand. To get in here knowing only what I learned in high school, is pretty cool.” Rick Hecker believes that he is also fortunate to be partnered with Lincoln CTE, “It’s tough to find good, young talent. You want young people who have energy and want to learn. We’re trying to expose kids to the shop environment and what we can do. It’s a clean environment, employees are working with computers. They can earn $25-35 per hour as a CAD designer and $75,000-$100,000 per year with overtime. Mike has moved up very quickly.”   

In 2017, the partnership flourished when Hecker attended a conference sponsored by DMG MORI. He was introduced to Dr. Mori and took the opportunity to share the success story of the partnership. He also discussed the high cost of maintaining equipment that reflected current industry, citing the reductions in school funding over the years. Dr. Mori offered to place a DMG Mori five-axis CNC machine at Lincoln High School on a “zero dollar lease arrangement” for the upcoming two years. When Hecker shared news of this generous donation, the local business partners began to add their own generosity.

First, Hecker suggested that a grant be submitted to the American Mold Builders Association to receive funding to support the partnership activities. Together with Dr. Kathleen Szuminski, CTE Director of the Southwest Macomb Technical Education Consortium (SMTEC), they wrote a grant and were excited to receive news that a $10K grant award would support their efforts. Dr. Szuminski states, “We are thrilled with the support of our local business partners and the AMMA as we work to fill the manufacturing talent gap in Macomb County. Our students are leaving high school with skills that enable them to move right into lucrative careers; these careers afford them a family-sustaining wage and assist with their college courses as they pursue higher education.”

To ensure that the donated five-axis CNC machine could be installed and run with no burden on the school district’s budget, Metro Air donated the required air compressor, piping, and an employee to install it. Powertran gave the school a transformer. Autodesk provided 75 licenses for PowerMill, which is compatible with the DMG Mori machine. Precision Mold and Manufacturing is creating and donating decals of the partner companies for the building. Regarding all of donations, Lincoln High School Principal, Billie Sczepaniak states, “It feels like winning the lottery!”

On the afternoon of September 12, 2017 a delivery truck pulled up to the Lincoln CTE building and workers got busy removing the outdated equipment and placed the brand new machine in the shop classroom. DMG Mori then sent an applications engineer to LHS to provide three days of training for the teachers. One exciting aspect of this training was, in addition to teachers Mike Zainea and Fred Cook, recent LHS grad and current Eifel Mold employee Yousif Akoob, joined in the training sessions to help the teachers learn the new equipment. According to Akoob, “LHS CTE classes put me on the right path to my great career!”