BREA, CALIF. — Getting young generations excited about the field of manufacturing has been a challenge for many companies, but one has found a way to gain some momentum.
M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp. recently invited students from Century High School in Santa Ana, Calif., to tour its facility.
Students were given the opportunity to learn about silicone and plastic molding in an effort to give students a career path they may have not considered previously.
Geri Anderson, marketing director for M.R. Mold, said the seed was planted for the visit in February, when she met representatives from Century High School at the MD&M West Show in Anaheim, Calif.
Educators were speaking to Anderson about the need to get young people into manufacturing. This need matched one of the initiatives of the National Tooling and Machinery Association (NTMA) — of which M.R. Mold is a member — and Anderson wanted to see how the company could team with the school.
Century offers a STEAM program — science, technology, engineering, art and math — in which students “actually take engineering classes” along with some technology and science courses as well, Anderson said.
“They are trying to get them prepared for life,” she said. “And I was really intrigued because high schools these days do not have those kinds of classes.”
Whereas many school districts have eliminated woodworking, metal shop and automotive course work, Century still is offering courses for the trades.
Brea-based M.R. Mold wanted to get involved with this in some capacity, so the school and firm worked together to create an event.
It started on May 26, when Rick Finnie, M.R. Mold president, visited Century and gave a 45-minute presentation to introduce the students to what silicone and plastics are, along with what it is that M.R. Mold does.
In the week that followed, Anderson said teachers instructed students to do an online scavenger hunt on the M.R. Mold company website to raise awareness of Finnie's presentation and their upcoming visit to the firm's facility.
On June 9, M.R. Mold hosted 18 students at its plant. It originally was supposed to be 30 students, but seniors were taking final exams and could not attend.
NTMA and R.D. Abbott also attended the event to make it a “well-rounded program,” Anderson said.
NTMA spoke to students about its training programs and getting into manufacturing. Afterward, students took a tour of the M.R. Mold shop.
The tour started in design, where Mike Coleman, engineering manager, spent about 20 minutes detailing SolidWorks, showing students a particular mold and the steps it took to build it.
Anderson said students saw a print drawing of the completed mold and were able to see what the mold looked like.
Students were divided into two groups led by Finnie and Brian Geisel, operations manager.
They explained “each machine and its process and its importance in the whole scope of the work,” Anderson said.
“They got a sense of the whole entire picture ... from start to finish.”
Students got to tour the technology center, where they did some compression molding with R.D. Abbott. Anderson said a plastic mold was running at the time, along with a fully robotic silicone mold in one of the other molding machines.
College vs. trades
One idea posed to students is that college is not for everyone, and “sometimes taking these skills and working with your hands and building things ... is better for one student than it is for the other,” she said.
While the majority of visiting students were part of the STEAM program, Anderson said a few were not but were just interested in learning more.
“Whether they decide to go into manufacturing or not, we just felt that we opened up an avenue to these kids that maybe they weren't aware of,” she said. “Even if they go back and talk to their peers, it may spark interest in someone who had not attended to at least look into it and see if this is something they want to do.
“We explained that coming into the trade, you don't instantly make money, but you're making money along the way — instead of going to school for four years and coming out with a great deal of student loans.
“And there's an advantage in that, if in fact this is something that they're thinking about.”
Interest from students
Students showed a good deal of interest, she said. M.R. Mold asked students to fill out evaluations after their time at the facility, and it is clear from those evaluations that they learned more about the molding industry.
According to the survey, several students indicated they “maybe” are interested in becoming a mold maker or mold engineer.
The majority of students wanted to learn more about mold making and the molding industry after their time at M.R. Mold.
“There were a couple of students that just couldn't get enough information,” Anderson said. “There was one girl in that class who was enthusiastic and wanted to know why there weren't more women in the industry.”
Anderson told them that while the industry did not seem to have many women in the past, more are coming into the field these days.
The day was a success, with students spending more than three hours at the shop. Anderson said Century High School was open to returning in the fall with another group of students who want to learn more about manufacturing.
“It is our hope we can get more high schools to ... buy into the tour and the possibility of giving these kids a little bit more options,” she said.
The company would like to initiate the program at the grade school level if it is applicable, Anderson said.
“Sometimes getting to the kids in seventh or eighth grade is just as important as getting to them when they are juniors and seniors in high school,” Anderson said, “because they don't know what they want to do, and we have a little bit more chance to get their thought process going at a younger age.”