If we were to define manufacturing we find that manufacturing is, "to make something on a large scale using machinery." Currently, we are seeing the world of advanced manufacturing, "manufacture," a new workplace before our eyes for our 21st century students. However, a skills gap exists, many have seen, heard, or read in the news lately of the need for more technically skilled workers entering the world of Advanced
Manufacturing. Information such as this, “Some 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers report they have a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions...nearly 2 million manufacturing jobs are expected to go unfilled due to a shortage of skilled labor,” are being discussed more and more in the workforce development world.
In order to prepare our students for their future careers we decided to increase our students exposure to this line of work that is defined as, the insertion of new technology, improved processes, and management methods to improve the manufacturing of products. Students from both Bob Jones and James Clemens High Schools were able to gain an insight into the flourishing world of, “advanced manufacturing,” on October 4th, 2017 as they toured Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama Inc.
Madison City Schools took twenty students and a little more than a handful of school leaders on an engaging day with Toyota. We were welcomed by the President and other leaders at the site with opening remarks concerning the importance of work in advanced manufacturing and the possibility for future, rewarding careers. Toyota had also invited Huntsville STEAM Works to be there to facilitate activities for the students with 3-D Printed robots. Students were able to work in teams to complete different tasks with the robots such as moving object with the robot arms, drawing with markers, and all the way to a robot sword fight, with the reigning champ! Through activities like this it was so rewarding to see students that generally are not expressive in, “core academics,” get excited about working with the robots to reach the goals set for the teams!
Next, the students were then given a group guided tour from leaders of the Toyota Team through the plan to see first hand the state of the art facility and production lines right here in Huntsville! Students were amazed at the expanse of the warehouse and how every piece connects to another through various computer controlled channels. Down to even unmanned vehicles moving material from one line to another! The take away from the tour was seeing the expansive need for learning computer languages that control assembly lines and the importance of critical thinking to increase efficiency and best practices.
Concluding the day, students were treated to a catered lunch and a Career Guidance panel that showcased team members in Toyota with various roles and backgrounds. Students learned about internships, Co-Op programs like AL FAME, and also what soft skills like communication and critical thinking skills which are vital in getting a job with a leader in Advanced Manufacturing like Toyota. After doing a post assessment, we found out that all of the polled students were interested in a job with Toyota and all defined Advanced Manufacturing as, “a advanced, high-value industry that represents innovation and technology.,” We could not offer such experiences like these to our students without outreach efforts like this from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama Inc.