Guest blog post by Marta Collier of Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions (AMS), an affiliate of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
The lazy days of summer are a thing of the past. Through a remarkably diverse set of summer camps and other enrichment programs, kids all over Arkansas spent the summer of 2015 participating in activities designed to spark their curiosity and teach them the joy of creating. That joy—and the 21st century skills they learned—will hopefully stay with them and lead some into the rewarding, high-paying manufacturing jobs that require those skills.
Recognizing that “one size does NOT always fit all,” businesses, educators and government officials in Arkansas are teaming up to create a network of opportunities for students and job seekers that could serve as a model for others areas of the country facing the challenge of recruiting skilled labor in manufacturing.
In Central Arkansas, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub (North Little Rock) offered seven different multi-day, Maker Camps where students explored 3D printing and laser technologies and developed engineering skills such as computer programing, modeling, analytics, plant safety. The Hub is a sub-recipient of the Arkansas MEP, a program within the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It features The Launch Pad, a Maker Space where students and employees in manufacturing companies can expand skill sets that promote growth and innovation in the work place.
Young Manufacturer’s Academies, the signature program of the Manufacturing Institute’s Dream It. Do It. program, took place at nine community colleges around the state through the support of the Gene Haas Foundation, Albermarle Corporation, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, El Dorado Chemical, Entergy-Arkansas, Great Lakes Solutions, Lennox Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Martin Midstream Partners and the Arkansas State Chamber. More than 250 students from grades 7 to9 were able to grow and develop essential knowledge and skills related to manufacturing jobs in Arkansas. The week-long experience included hands-on training in reasoning, problem-solving and technology literacy skills as well as tours of manufacturing facilities.
In Northwest Arkansas, the University of Arkansas’s College of Engineering continued its tradition of offering Engineering Summer Academies, which expose students in the 4th grade and up to hands-on engineering activities. Research experiences for undergraduates are also a significant portion of summer activity for the University.
In the northeastern corner of the state, Arkansas State University in Jonesboro continued its delivery of outreach and research opportunities for K-12 and undergraduate students interested in biosciences and engineering experiences. The activities were facilitated through the Arkansas STEM Center network as well as through the ASU Office of Research and Technology Transfer.
In Central and Southern Arkansas a number of organizations and institutions also provided similar experiences including, but not limited to, University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s SUPER Program, Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Camp Wanna Code, Experiential Summer Engineering/Science Camps offered by the Museum of Discovery (Little Rock) along with the Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs) and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s STEM Academy.
In addition to giving kids lots of exciting activities while school is out, Arkansas is making great strides in preparing the types of workers manufacturing will need in the days to come. You too can make an impact by participating in Manufacturing Day on October 2, 2015, in your local community. Find an event near you by visiting http://www.mfgday.com/events.