Two years ago at a local economic development meeting, Bruce McBurney and David Soderstrom learned they had a common bond. McBurney, director of vocational education for the Central Kitsap (Washington) School District, gave a presentation to comunity business leaders, encouraging them to get involved with the vocational technical programs.
Soderstrom, co-owner of Bainbridge, Wash., sat in the audience, listening and getting excited by what McBurney had to say.
McBurner needed businesses to work with the schools to provide real-life training for students. Soderstrom needed computer-aided design drafters, computer numerically controlled mill operators and mold makers. The two exchanged business cards after the meeting, and thus was born a cooperative effort linking business and education in the Puget Sound area of Western Washington.
The program begins with high school students, who earn community college credits fokr the vocational classes. In addition to classroom training, they work part time at Bainbridge learning about the real world of manufactruing.
Students can gon on to the community college system for more advanced training and an associates's degree. Now, Vestern Vashing University has its eye on the program as a source of students wanting to join its four-year advanced plastics program, McBruney said.
Soderstrom said the program is working well. The high school students he works with learn CAD, how an injection mold works, how to engineer a mold and practice writing took-cutting pathc on small CNC milling machine the school district owns.
A second apprentice mold maker now is working at Bainbridge Manufacturing while attending the community college.
"It's certainly helped us with the problem of where to find good employees," said Soderstrom. "This is such a feasible project because no one can afford to hire an entry-level person and spent the time to train them on their own."
Bainbridge Manufacturing operates 15 injection molding presses and makes plastic hardware.
Soderstrom said the company - which he owns with his father, who started the business in 1958, and his brother - offers student workers broad experience.
In addition to molding the hardware, the company designs and patents its products; builds the molds; inventories the parts; and markets, sells and distributes ith finishtd goods to hardware stores throughout the country.
The goal of the program, said Soderstrom, is to have 20 different businesses involved. He and McBurney also have approached personnel at the Keyport Naval Undersea Warfare Center to help our with training at that site.
McBurney said now that the Cold War is over and the government is cutting back, the district found space ay Keyport for training facilities, as well as a site for satellite manufactruing centers for companies like Bainbridge.
The program also needs involvement from equipment and machinery suppliers to donate badly needed presses, mills and lathes, said Soderstrom.
Although the program is young, Soderstrom is sold on its value to local businesses as a way to provide much-needed, skilled employees.
"It's critical for us as business owners to have an avenue for these students to learn," he said. "The future of the U.S. economy depends on programs like this, and the place to start is where I'm starting - here at home with training."