Chautauqua Lake Central School in Western New York has taken interest in expanding students' knowledge within the manufacturing world, starting with a club and then adding shop classes to its curriculum.
Jay Baker, CEO of Jamestown Plastics Inc. and a former school board president for the local school district, was determined to bring back shop classes and give students options in education.
"One of the biggest challenges is to be able to offer the type of program that the kids deserve to have," Baker said.
"Manufacturers have to really get involved in the school districts that are in their area and be forceful about it and provide assistance guidance to help these districts establish programs like this," he added.
Over the year prior to setting up the club, Baker had noticed a decline in shop programs such as welding. He reached out to Randy Stuart, former owner of Stuart Tool & Die Inc. in Jamestown, N.Y., to start up a new program for students.
The club began in 2014, based in a space that once hosted the school's shop program. It was initially staffed by volunteers from local companies and focused on exposing kids to the world of manufacturing.
Stuart and Baker donated additional equipment and brought in Bridgeport-style milling machines, welders and other common machines in a tool and die shop.
Once the club became a part of the official curriculum a year later, Chautauqua Lake Central School partnered with Rochester Institute of Technology and Jamestown Community College. Students are now able to obtain college credit and 11 credits for manufacturing and STEM courses, totaling 33 credits by graduation.
"The program has really blossomed, and our wonderful administration embraced it and started putting it into the curriculum," Baker said.
Neighboring districts also come to Chautauqua Lake Central School to attend the program for either half or full days, depending on schedules.
The program takes place in a 6,000-square-foot shop, with computer numerically controlled machining centers, welding stations and 3D printers. There is also a classroom within the manufacturing space and areas for kids to do computer-aided design (CAD).
"These kids are going from an idea to designing it in the CAD, going into the manufacturing space putting metal into a CNC machining center and machining and maybe welding fabrication. It's absolutely incredible," Baker said.
Five students out of the program have moved on to work for Baker at Jamestown Plastics, a thermoformer based in Brocton, N.Y. Jamestown is also paying for their continued education at a local college to get an associate degree or get additional training.