Closing the skills gap: High-school students learn metalworking and make money, too

Capturing the interest of students and whetting their appetite for careers in manufacturing isn’t always easy. The key, say many mold companies looking for ways to engage the next generation of mold makers, is getting them interested during junior high and high school.

Eleva-Strum Central High School in Strum, WI, has elevated their technology program into an actual manufacturing business called Cardinal Manufacturing, a student-run machine shop. Authentic learning is key to teaching the metalworking trades, and at Cardinal Manufacturing students learn not only machine tool technology but also the basic elements of entrepreneurship, giving them a taste of the real business world.

Cardinal Manufacturing is a self-funding program. According to Craig Cegielski, Tech Ed Instructor at Eleva-Strum High School, “Rather than selling candy bars to raise money, we sell machining.” Students typically begin the program in their 8th- or 9th-grade year, and by their junior and senior years are eligible for part-time internship work at local machine shops and moldmaking companies in the area.

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