From the editor: Real-world education

Friday November 04, 2016
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Nov. 4, 2016 - Nothing gives you a taste of an industry more than a tradeshow. A show, regardless of its size, is an opportunity to take in the state of a given industry firsthand, learn about the latest technologies and network with like minds. Last month, Manufacturing AUTOMATION publisher Klaus Pirker and I spent four jam-packed days at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, Ill., and there was certainly no shortage of people to chat with and demos to check out.

IMTS 2016 boasted 115,612 registrants and 1,370,256 net square feet of exhibit space, making it the third largest IMTS. As well, the total number of exhibitors for this year was 2,407, the highest in its 31-year history. As I navigated through the crowded aisles at the McCormick Place — is it just me or do the halls seem to get longer as the week goes on? — I couldn’t help but notice how many students had also turned up to walk the show floor.

More than 17,000 students, parents and educators visited the Smartforce Student Summit, a simultaneous event put on by show organizers that offered students nine challenges to explore manufacturing technologies, including: CAD/CAM software, robotics, 3D printing, machining, tooling and automation. Open to students of all ages, the goal was to give young people a hands-on education on trade careers outside of the classroom, or a “real-world preview of the industry,” as Greg Jones, vice president, Smartforce Development, AMT, puts it. There was also a career fair for those looking to connect with employers for internships, apprenticeships and entry-level jobs.

Throughout the week, I kept seeing groups of students walking the floor with their phones in hand, recording various exhibitor demos — the ice-cream-serving duAro robot at the Kawasaki Robotics booth was a real hit! It was amazing to see this level of student engagement at an industry event; it’s an opportunity I wish I had growing up. Other than taking two five-month tech classes, my knowledge of trade careers when I was in school was quite limited. It wasn’t until I started reporting on trade industries six years ago that I came to understand how vital and necessary this form of education is.

I encourage you to open your doors to today’s young people. Whether it’s a lunch-and-learn, a plant tour, an open house or a school visit, these events will continue to further the discussion on the viability of skilled trades careers.

By the time you receive this issue, Manufacturing Day — October 7 — will have already come and gone. Did your company do anything to celebrate the festivities? Send me an email and let me know what you and your company did to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. I’d love to hear how it went.

This column was previously published in the October 2016 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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