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Summer Programs Geared toward Attracting the Next Generation of Manufacturing

Where will the next generation of the skilled trade workforce come from? Unless kids get interested in manufacturing at an early age, they aren’t likely to pick it as a career. But, there are ways for young people to experience using technologies like 3D printing, Computer-aided Design(CAD) and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining, laser cutting, welding, and fabricating and get the satisfaction of making something, which could very well change their perception of the factory floor. Fortunately for the future of manufacturing, summer camps with a manufacturing theme are blooming around the country. Many are focused on robotics, but the following camps preview factory floor skills.

Student Learning Modern Manufacturing



This summer, Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin is holding a range of camps, including Metal Form and Fusion, which will engage students between the ages of 14-18 in the design, forming and welding of metal. This camp experience will also include field trips to local manufacturing facilities. In their Power of Manufacturing camp, 12-14 year-old campers will be able to use CAD, welding, and CNC tools to build and race a power tool dragster.


Fox Valley is also hosting two programs designed especially for girls. The American Welding Society (AWS) will help conduct the GirlTech camps for girls in grades 6-8. Women with manufacturing experience will lead hands-on activities, using computers, welding and science. Another camp, Girls in the Shop, for ages 14-18, will allow girls to utilize welding and fabrication equipment from the school’s Welding & Fabrication Lab.




In Michigan, the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Academy for Manufacturing Careers (AMC) hold nine different camps for young people. One specific camp called Engineering Is Elementary targets boys and girls in kindergarten through fifth grade and connects engineering with their level of science.


Another camp called I Can Make It is for students in grades 4-6 and is an overnight camp where they design, build and test of dozens of projects. The Machining U camp is for 7th–9th graders who will use CAD, metal fabrication, blueprint reading, measurement, welding, machining, metal finishing and multiple other skills.


JAMA and AMC also have an exclusive girls’ camp called Girl M-Powered that gives girls a chance to focus on career-related STEM activities and projects.


Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, also offers a two-week Machining and Fabricating program. It starts with the basics of shop safety and moves on to reading blueprints and gages. Students will then have the opportunity to make items from different materials. They will also learn the basics of electronics and circuits. Finally, they will learn to program and use CNC manufacturing equipment.




A dual theme of entrepreneurship and manufacturing awaits students in grades 7-10 at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia. The next generation of inventors, engineers and manufacturers will develop new product ideas, then design and manufacture them by programming and operating CNC machines. They will also visit area manufacturers, including NASA Langley.




Students enjoying Camp AMP
Students enjoying Camp AMP


Yokohama Tire Manufacturing in Mississippi has partnered with East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) to conduct Camp AMP – Advanced Manufacturing Professionals – for students in middle and high school. In a press release about the camp Susan Baird, assistant dean in the Manufacturing, Technology & Engineering Division of EMCC, said:


“Most students do not realize how many job opportunities are available to them right here in their own back yard. Camp AMP will provide both industry tours and hands-on skills training for students so that they can get a better understanding of the technology that is involved in the advanced manufacturing companies in our area.”


Attendees of this camp will discover technologies like CAD and 3D printing as well as manufacturing jobs through tours of local facilities.




The family-oriented Mentors & Makers summer program in College Station, Texas, operates under the philosophy that it’s not the technology that gets young people interested in manufacturing. Instead, they believe that the real reward for students is to apply their creativity and use technology to actually make things. This summer, Mentors & Makers offers a range of programs from short morning workshops to 5-day camps that focus on CNC-related technologies including 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC routing.


Isn’t it great to see manufacturing programs happening all over the U.S.? Can your company help foster programs like these? You can become engaged in (or even launch your own) coalitions with educational institutions, manufacturers, and professional organizations in your area that produce these types of programs to encourage manufacturing. Your company can help push this movement forward financially, with manufacturing expertise, mentorships or any number of other capacities. Financial support is vital to keep fees within reach of the student’s family and assure diversity. In addition, manufacturers have to open their doors to give kids the opportunity to see real manufacturing in action and meet people excited about their careers and trades. Finally, mentors involved in the camp experience can be decisive in encouraging the young person’s exploration of a manufacturing future. While the skills’ shortage is a problem now, part of the solution is for manufacturers to get involved.


For more information on summer camps focusing on manufacturing, visit Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, supported by the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA).


Karen Wilhelm has worked in the manufacturing industry for 25 years, and blogs at Lean Reflections, which has been named as one of the top ten lean blogs on the Web.

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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