September 24, 2012

Million Dollar Machine

The below guest post comes from Emily Kobza, Director of Development for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

Two weeks ago I found myself in Chicago at the International Manufacturing & Technology Show, one of the largest manufacturing tradeshows in the world. This seems like an odd place to find someone like me whose work really doesn’t have anything to do with manufacturing so let me explain that I was there tagging along with my husband whose job is related to manufacturing.

There I am, wandering around McCormick Place, checking out things like inserts, deburring machines, and workholding solutions, and I get to the North Pavilion (or was it South??) where there are these HUGE displays of machines and robots doing everything from drilling holes to sorting parts to playing blackjack. (I’m pretty sure the blackjack dealing robot was for show only.) A friend of mine, whose business was participating in the show, refers to it as the “million dollar room.” I was pretty impressed.

And then my aha! moment happens. I realized that, contrary to my perceptions, operating these machines is more than pushing a button and watching it go. These machines are complex pieces of equipment that involve lots of technology and so the people who operate these machines utilize many different skill sets on a daily basis have to keep these million dollar machines running and producing.

As I listened to and talked with different vendors, I discovered that there is concern about a “skills gap” that exists in manufacturing. With many individuals close to retirement age, people are a little worried about having enough skilled workers in the pipeline to meet the demand. One company is actively recruiting individuals to train as service technicians. In their first year, these trainees will train not only domestically, but also internationally.

All this leads me back to my work here at CIS of Kalamazoo. What we do with our partners and the community to help every child succeed in school can help ensure that we have a pool of skilled workers capable of thinking on their feet, creatively solving problems, and constantly innovating. Indirectly, what I’m doing every day does have something to do with manufacturing.

What skills do you think kids today need to be successful tomorrow? Let us know!


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