We’re excited to announce about our involvement with the Watch Us Manufacturing Academy. This innovative program, spearheaded by the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC) at Purdue, aims to expose kids to careers in manufacturing. Here’s more about the program, why we wanted to be involved, and what we hope to get out of it.

Background: Indiana is a Manufacturing State

According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), over half a million people are employed at the 7,000+ manufacturing firms in Indiana. They do many different jobs but every single one of them, one way or another, is engaged in the process of turning raw materials into useful things that improve our lives.

The biggest industries in Indiana, according to NAM, are chemicals, motor vehicles and parts, primary metals manufacturing, and fabricated metal products. (Yes, we’re in that fourth group.)

Manufacturing has a problem though: young people aren’t being drawn to careers in manufacturing the way they once were. If that continues, costs are going to rise and more goods will be purchased from overseas.

This isn’t unique to Indiana: manufacturing across the US is struggling to find and build the workforce of tomorrow. Nationally, there’s a lot of hand-wringing, but here in Indiana, we’re taking action.

A Partnership Between Educators and Manufacturers

IN-MaC’s mission is to create, “a stronger, more competitive manufacturing ecosystem for Indiana and the nation.” The Watch Us Manufacturing Academy, and others like it, are part of that effort.

These academies work through High Schools and seek to build links with manufacturers in their areas. The idea is to expose High Schoolers to careers they might not otherwise have considered. It also seeks to show kids there are more career paths than just going straight to college.

Lisa Deck is the Purdue IN-MaC Program Manager, Education Workforce. In an announcement made by Mississinewa Community Schools on their Facebook page regarding the launch of the Watch Us Manufacturing Academy, she says, “The academy model is a win-win. For … manufacturers, we are building a pipeline of future employees to help offset worker shortages. … students are exploring local career opportunities, improving their professional skills, learning some independence, and getting their foot in the door for a potential future career.”

The announcement also adds that “This academy is designed to provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue careers in the manufacturing industry.”

How Wiley is Supporting the Academy

The Mississinewa Community Schools Watch Us Manufacturing Academy is supported by a host of local businesses. Wiley Metal is one, but others are drawn from cabinet manufacturing, construction, and plumbing.

Our involvement entails hosting a cohort of 12 High School Juniors for a few hours a week. They won’t be just watching though, there’s a curriculum they’ll be following and a project to complete.

The goal is to have them go through all the steps involved in fabricating a sign, from design and purchasing to scheduling, production, and shipping. For an added incentive to get involved and stay involved, they’ll have an opportunity to earn an internship with Wiley for their senior year.

As Ben Wiley, Senior Vice President, said in the Mississinewa Community Schools announcement, “Manufacturing has always been a big part of this community and this program will give students a chance for real-life experience to be ready for life after school.”

What’s in it For Wiley

Supporting our local community is always worthwhile, but there are two other reasons we’re excited about supporting the Watch Us Manufacturing Academy.

First, we want to help young people make informed career decisions, so we’re showing them career options they may not otherwise have considered. In particular, we’d like them to realize they don’t have to move away or go to college to have satisfying, interesting, and rewarding careers: opportunities exist right here in Indiana.

Another reason is entirely selfish: we need young people to come into metal fabrication, and we see this as a way to fill the pipeline. Not every Watch Us Academy participant is going to come to work for us, but if they learn the satisfaction of actually making something from scratch, perhaps they’ll spread the word and others will talk to us about the kind of careers they could have here.

The bottom line is, we think manufacturing is important, and if manufacturing in Indiana is going to have a bright future it needs bright young people eager for the challenge and satisfaction of making things that people use.

If you’re interested in coming to work with us, or maybe you need something fabricated, feel free to contact us.