Yesterday was one of those days. Late in the afternoon, the first of three guys who came to replace our burst hot water heater showed up. Brian introduced himself, and I directed him to the failed heater that had caused some damage (soggy, stinky carpet) and left us hot-waterless for almost a day. Miniscule nuisances, especially when compared to the devastation in Haiti.
I told Brian that I would leave him to his work and return to mine. He asked what kind of work I do. When he learned that it was Web-related, he said that he had retired from writing financial software applications and taken up plumbing. He “loves” his new vocation: “I see the sunshine and people and get to work with my hands.”
I would have liked to have heard more, but deadlines called, and I returned to my desk in my solitary office, where I continued to think about what Brian said. It occurred to me that he could be a spokesperson to visit schools and encourage young people to pursue technical careers. If he did, he would be joining a cadre of educators and manufacturers who are doing just that -- like those in Manitowoc, Wis.
Today, the Herald Times Reporter featured an article about the Manitowoc County High School Manufacturing Project. As part of the project’s second year, five teams are building downsized motorcycles that will debut April 23 at the Ant Hill Mob’s annual motorcycle show.
According to a report of the previous year’s program, students learn a variety of skills including mechanical design, welding, painting, budget and project management, electro-mechanical, quality control, safety, marketing, public speaking, time management, and information technology -- real-world skills.
The exposure helped several first year students decide which path to follow post high school. A mechanical design freshman at Lakeshore Technical College -- one of the project’s sponsors -- said his welding skills were strengthened by the program. He plans to transfer to University of Wisconsin-Stout after two years at LTC.
A teammate now is studying auto maintenance at LTC. He wants to be a mechanic and own his own shop one day.
Among the sponsors of Project Mini-Chopper are Manitowoc Ice, a subsidiary of The Manitowoc Co., Manitowoc Tool & Machining, Heavy Metal Fabricators, Baileigh Industrial, and Lakeshore Technical College.
Sponsors are active participants. In the article, a current member of the Valders High School team expressed his appreciation for the assistance of Baileigh’s John Newberg and the use of the company’s metal bending equipment.
Officials of The Chamber of Manitowoc County and the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc said they co-sponsor Project Mini-Chopper to improve the image of manufacturing. The manufacturing sector is a vital employer in Manitowoc Co., providing about 30 percent of the county’s jobs.
As I see it, this project is a winning endeavor for the students, the sponsors, the Manitowic community, and for U.S. manufacturing. If programs like this had been available when Brian was a teenager (approximately 45 years ago), he may have begun his hands-on career at a much younger age. However, I take heart in knowing that it’s never too late to find your own best job.
Note: If you are having your hot water heater replaced or any home job done that requires brazing, you might want to open a few windows and disable your electrically controlled fire alarms. It could save you from running down two flights of stairs to shut off the alarm circuit breaker before the fire trucks show up.
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