Achieving the American dream doesn’t have to mean going to law school, medical school or even a traditional four-year college. There is a growing interest among young people to fulfill their career goals in an important and rewarding industry manufacturing.
Despite an uncertain economy, many manufacturers across the country report a dire need for skilled labor. For example, a 2008 poll of manufacturing executives, conducted in part by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, Intl. (FMA), revealed that manufacturing executives believe the lack of skilled labor not high oil prices or a weak U.S. dollar most hurts the growth of America’s economy.
And, most industry experts agree that when the economy does rebound, this labor shortage conundrum only will intensify.
One way to alleviate this shortage and revitalize the future of manufacturing is to provide incentives for students to pursue careers in manufacturing. One group – Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs (NBT), The Foundation of the FMA is doing just that by providing scholarships to young people taking courses that lead to technical careers.
These scholarships deliver tuition aid and provide an added incentive for students to successfully complete their studies.
“By rewarding and recognizing young students we are helping them pursue important and satisfying careers in manufacturing, and concurrently investing in the ever-important future workforce of America,” said Terrence Egan, NBT director.
NBT awards traditional scholarships to college- or trade school-bound high school seniors and college students who seek careers in manufacturing in areas such as welding, metal fabrication and machining, engineering technology and more. Scholarships of up to $5,000 are awarded annually for college studies or $2,000 for trade school or two-year college programs.
In addition, the NBT awards scholarships through its “GO-Brennan” program, based on a YouTube promotion tied to NBT’s sponsorship of 17-year-old stock car driver and welder Brennan Palmiter. Palmiter helps motivate young people interested in the trades by appearing in a clever, engaging four-minute video on YouTube inviting high school, trade school and college students to apply for the scholarships by posting their own video.
“You don’t have to be a college graduate to get a great job in manufacturing, but you do need a good technical education in math, science, computer and other specialized training courses,” said Egan. “These scholarships help students fulfill their career goals and receive that necessary training.”
One Scholarship Winner’s Success Story
Former NBT scholarship winner Dan Niemela of Miller Electric Mfg. Co. believes his receipt of a scholarship played an important role in his career advancement. Niemela takes welding directly to the customer with Miller Electric’s Road Show truck, often called “the biggest array of welders and welding processes every displayed in a mobile unit.”
Niemela drives the 62-foot semi from its home base in Appleton, Wis., to trade shows and open houses from coast to coast. Equipped with the latest welding power sources and systems, the portable classroom lets Niemela provide live equipment demonstrations and hands-on training in plasma cutting and MIG, TIG and stick welding to his customers.
Niemela was initiated into the trades in a high school vocational tech program, then won a $2,000 NBT scholarship toward his schooling at Ferris State University. While finishing his degree in welding engineering technology, Dan and several classmates were recruited by Miller Electric for jobs upon graduation a practice becoming more common as retiring baby boomers create a shortage of skilled welders.
Young talent like Niemela is in high demand and, according to him, welding is a demanding profession. “It’s a field where technical skills approach art,” said Niemela. “And for those who master it, the rewards are great. Winning an NBT scholarship was a great incentive to help me continue my education in the welding field.”
Last year, Niemela’s experience with the NBT came full circle as he volunteered to serve on its grant application review committee selecting the organizations around the country that will receive the NBT funds to host summer manufacturing camps.
Making a Difference
Like Niemela, young people from across the country are beginning to recognize that working a skilled manufacturing job can be rewarding financially and fulfilling personally, while also leading to improvements to the country’s economy.
Michael Adams, a 2009 scholarship winner from North Canton, Ohio, said, “I believe that manufacturing will play a critical role in our national, long-term economic security, and in order to compete globally, there will be an increased demand for skilled manufacturing engineers.”
Another student scholarship winner agreed that the manufacturing sector can revitalize the American economy.
“I would like to be a future contributor to advancing manufacturing in America by using my computer engineering education to keep manufacturing on top and assure that it remains a major part of a strong U.S. economy,” stated Matthew Johnson of West Dundee, Ill.
Inspiring the Future Inventors and Innovators
Kevin Dickson of Grayslake, Ill., remarked, “Today’s society faces many unique problems that my generation must solve. As an aspiring engineer, I am extremely interested in solving these questions because we have a responsibility to ensure that the world is safer, cleaner and a better place to live for future generations.”
Avery-John Domingo of Kapolei, Hawaii, stated, “My career objective is to major in mechanical engineering and to research and manufacture composites that are renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly, helping my state go green. By attending college, I will be able to test my ideas that might one day be the basis for breakthrough technologies and applications.”
According to the recent 2009 Manpower Talent Shortage Survey, the most difficult job to fill in America is that of an engineer. Many NBT scholarship winners therefore are preparing to make a positive contribution to the U.S. economy.
Many of the scholarship applicants also reveal an enthusiasm for tinkering at a very young age.
“Ever since I was little I’ve had a passion for discovering the way things work and designing and building things of my own,” said Hank Peppe of Plattsmouth, Neb. “This passion for designing and building things has continued up through today, and that is the main reason I’m sure engineering manufacturing is the right field for me.”
Another scholarship winner acknowledged that he had an interest in engineering that began in childhood. “I spent my afternoons devising contraptions to control my room or to ensnare my family, and recycling old parts to build new gadgets,” said Anthony Cazabat, a 2009 scholarship recipient from Santa Barbara, Calif. “Now, thanks to the help of the NBT, I hope to use my abilities in the field of prosthetic robotics.”
And NBT recipients realize the value of receiving a scholarship.
“When I found out I’d received an NBT scholarship, I felt like the people on the commercials who win the lottery,” remarked Lauren Hockin, an engineering student at The University of Western Ontario. “I was bouncing around the house and couldn’t wait to tell my family the amazing news!”
According to Hockin, the scholarship was a gift that kept on giving. “The scholarship allowed me to invest myself fully in school and extracurricular activities. When I thought about the logistics of trying to have a job and still succeed academically, I was really thankful for the scholarship.”
In testament to the value of scholarship programs, companies in the hard-hit manufacturing sector are stepping up to the plate to improve the industry by making donations to organizations like the NBT that provide student educational initiatives.
Even consumers can give a small gift to benefit the future of manufacturing. The NBT text-to-give program allows people to donate to the organization by simply texting “123” to the number “90999” from their cell phone.
Supporters will be prompted to confirm their gift by replying with the word YES. Then they will receive a confirmation and the message generates a five dollar donation charged directly to the caller’s cell phone bill.
More information on NBT is available by visiting www.NutsAndBoltsFoundation.org.