By: Megan A. Wilson, Contributing Writer
Boyne City Public Schools is bringing new training opportunities for its high school students.
The school has partnered with Precision Edge Surgical Instruments, Honeywell, Industrial Magnetics Inc., and Classic Instruments to create a skilled manufacturing jobs program for junior and senior high school students.
“I was on the city commission for 12 years, and we were trying to fill a void for training skilled manufacturing jobs,” said Chuck Vondra, former Boyne City Mayor, “We are Precision Edge’s new location and part of their concern in talking to us was whether we could train enough workers to hold these jobs.”
According to money.cnn.com the sharpest increase in postings for skilled workers—152 percent—has occurred in the last several years.
“My role was to get this program started so we can sustain manufacturing. They (Precision Edge) guaranteed that they would hire 10 percent of the graduating class so they can have jobs right away,” said Vondra.
Instructor Todd Shumaker said the class currently has 16 students.
“29 kids actually signed up, but this is what we’ve got,” Shumaker said.
The local manufacturing community has provided most of the machines for the class—95 percent—which include a lathe, Bridgeport mill and a drill press, as well as another machine that was previously acquired.
“Precision Edge sent over an electrician, and he wired all of the machines and the room to make sure everything was installed properly and safely,” said Shumaker.
The class lasts the entire school year and students attend during their last hour of school … but this isn’t the first time a manufacturing class has been offered.
“This is actually the second time around for this class, the first one was taught 12 years ago,” said Shumaker “It works out to 160 hours in a year,” said Shumaker. “We teach a lot of basic math in this class, too; some of the things these kids are learning they haven’t used since seventh grade.”
Students have a review test every Friday dealing with math skills, and they are tested on converting fractions to decimals and other mathematic operations.
“IMI has an average worker age of 44 years old. The problem that they’re running into is that in another 10 years those workers are going to retire,” said Shumaker.
“If their replacements aren’t trained, that’s where the labor problem is.”
Across the United States there are between 500,000 to 600,000 skilled trades jobs that need to be filled.
“We’ve had enough interest from local businesses that are looking for kids that are out of school that are not going to college,” said Shumaker.
According to Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss, the manufacturing class also gives students credits toward graduation.
This program is … for kids who don’t want to go to college and who prefer getting a job right after they are out of school,” he said. “Both IMI and Precision Edge support any of their employees who want to continue their education.”
Upon completion of the course, students will have familiarized themselves with some of the most popular machines used in the manufacturing industry.
“When they leave here the students will have run a lathe, run a Bridgeport, which is our end mills, run the drill press and they can tap,” said Shumaker. “What we’re trying to do is give them some ground-level experience so they can at least get their foot in the door.”
After Christmas someone will be coming in to put on a welding seminar for the students.
Currently Charlevoix and Boyne City are the only area schools that offer high school level programs like this.
For more information, call Boyne City Public Schools at (231) 439-8100.