Between two plant tours and a panel discussion (and thankfully, box lunches to fortify everyone), students attending a Manufacturing Day event in Cleveland this year heard from engineers, welders, spindle technicians, automation experts, a sales vp and a metallurgist turned manufacturing strategist. In the process, they learned that manufacturing isn’t defined by one job, or area of expertise, or educational path, and went away with a more sophisticated idea of what the field has to offer them.
The students saw themselves in some of the speakers—city and suburban kids, public and private school kids, kids with fully formed ideas of where they were headed post high school, and kids looking for ideas and direction. They asked solid teenager questions: What was the horsepower of the NASCAR car parked outside? Do you really need to take CAD classes to get a job in manufacturing?
The Oct. 4 event was the first of its kind organized by IndustryWeek, with sponsorship from Applied Industrial Technologies. Instead of reporting on and preaching about the need for outreach to students like we do every year, why not get up from behind our desks and try to do some outreach ourselves, the IW staff reasoned. They quickly found there was lots of community interest in such an event—the four field trip buses were spoken for hours after they were offered.
Eric Logan, the metallurgist turned partner at KPMG, referred to himself in the panel discussion as “one of the factory rats of our firm.” A graduate of Stanford University who went to Cleveland Public Schools until an elite private school took notice of his excellent grades, he is the leader of KPMG’s Industry 4.0 practice. His resume hits the Rust Belt highlights: Early in his career, he was a maintenance foreman for LTV Steel and later worked for a mini mill in Toledo, and ran companies for Precision Cast Parts Corp.
“Life has a whole bunch of detours, right? And really, it all builds on each other,” Logan told the students as they munched on their sandwiches. “All of the things I learned even being a maintenance foreman at LTV are things that contributed to the person I am and my capabilities today. So I think that things might not always go the way that you planned them, but take the detour and learn from each one of your steps.”
Vincent McGill, a welder/pieceworker at Lincoln Electric, really got the kids’ attention when he shared that he made $88,000 at Lincoln during his first year out of welding school. McGill actually started working at Lincoln earlier, when he was just 16. “I had zero skills,” he told the students. “It was just hard work. Checking my ego at the door. The more rod I burnt, the better I got.” McGill tried community college but decided that wasn’t for him. Lincoln’s welding school was 16 weeks full time, while working at Lincoln full-time second shift, but it was worth it.
“I missed a summer or two with my friends, but it’s something I don’t’ regret doing,” McGill. said. “I just took off from there.”
Only a few hands raised when Logan asked who knew the term “Industry 4.0,” so he explained it and shared how it related to students’ career possibilities. “It’s changing the landscape of skills that are needed in the industry,” he said. “We need to retool an industry. The beauty for you is that you’re jumping in right at the forefront. You have things in college, like data and analytics, which are a major now. When I went to school, there were no data and analytics.”
Logan mentioned a recent client who was creating robotic delivery and palletizing equipment for CNC machines but lacked the skilled maintenance people to fix those machines. “As things become more and more advanced, there’s going to be a need for people who can address that,” he said, “because the skill set is very different than the manufacturing sector in the past.”
Dominic Camino, a systems engineer at ABB in Cleveland, highlighted the opportunities for creative thinking and career exploration in manufacturing. He’s in a rotational program that allows him to try different roles and learn “what’s the best spot for me.”
“Be curious,” he advised the students. “Whether that’s asking a teacher for help or setting up a meeting with a professor, the more experiences you gain, the more you’ll be able to narrow down what it is you want to do.”
Then it was 2 o’clock and everyone was herded on the buses home. But not before they grabbed and scarfed down slices of pizza ordered late in the day by a wise ad director, who knew that it couldn’t hurt to close the Manufacturing Day deal with extra cheese and pepperoni.