The technology sector of U.S. employment has been experiencing a shortage of employees for years. Simply put, there are not enough workers in technology fields to fill all the job openings.
To remedy the situation, three of Indiana’s tech-focused higher-education institutions – Purdue University, Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University – joined forces in 2013 to create the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC). The goal of their academic partnership is to promote high-tech manufacturing industries – and the education needed to staff and propel those industries – in the Hoosier state.
IN-MaC teams with various Indiana employers to create innovative strategies that might interest high school students in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. One solution gaining exposure involves adding work studios to manufacturing facilities, where students can experience high-tech manufacturing in action. Through a partnership with IN-MaC, Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute and STEM Education Works, there are now ten such studios located at elementary schools and industries throughout Indiana, where middle and high school students can explore design thinking, problem solving, technology and creative skills.
One such interactive studio is located inside the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, LLC (HMIN) production facility in Greensburg, Ind. The design space, known as the HMIN Drives Dreams Pathway (HDDP) IN-MaC Design and Innovation Studio, provides hands-on experience with 3D printers, robotics, coding, engineering and science learning modules. The space also includes exposure to virtual reality stations and STEM education.
“The connection to studios that are located within manufacturing facilities and embedded within their outreach programs offers a truly unique way of bridging the industry-education gap,” said Greg Strimel, assistant professor of engineering/technology teacher education at Purdue Polytechnic. “The studio provides a unique experience by bringing the digital realm of creating and making, along with authentic connections to industry, specifically with the regionally-relevant manufacturing landscape, to the learning environments provided within both schools as well as industry settings. The relevant and realistic experiences will help cultivate technical competencies along with new digital abilities, employability skills, and awareness of career pathways at a young age where career perceptions are formed and new ways of thinking can be fostered.”
The HDDP program is open to students from Indiana schools, homeschools and community-based education organizations that are interested in STEM education, exposure to other careers in manufacturing and to improving career opportunities for Indiana youth. Student tours can be scheduled by contacting HMIN’s Brandon Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org.