Each summer, Vermeer Corp. brings high school teachers from a 70-mile radius into its manufacturing facilities in Pella, Iowa. They are there for three weeks to learn a little about every part of the business, from marketing to engineering to manufacturing, says Mary Andringa, CEO of the family-owned manufacturing company and a keynote speaker at IndustryWeek's recent Best Plants conference. Teachers also participate in kaizen events.
When the teachers leave, she says, they take away an understanding of the wide variety of skills required by the manufacturing community, from soft skills to math skills, from problem-solving skills to communications skills.
When the teachers return to school, they "are able to say to the students, 'You need to have these skills. I don't care what you think you are going to do in life, you need to have these,'" Andringa says.
"And they also see the great opportunities there are in manufacturing," she adds. "It's a practice I'd love to see more people do."