Wiley Metal Manufacturing has called Marion, Indiana, home of our metal fabrication business for over 35-years. Marion is a community of about 30,000 – and many Hoosiers have held fabrication careers at our local business. Located in the North Central part of the state and is also home to Indiana Wesleyan University, the largest private university in Indiana. Many don’t know that Marion was the birthplace of legendary actor James Dean and was where Julia Roberts married Lyle Lovett in 1993; as Wiley Metal celebrated our first 10 years in business.

As much as we cheerlead for our industry on a national basis, staying rooted and being involved in our local community remains a critical part of our mission. In fact, for 2019, our team has committed to finding and working with a community outreach program each month. You can read about our recent efforts in support of the backpack program at Frances Slocum Elementary School. This also happens to be the school where Dee Wiley, wife of Wiley Metal Manufacturing President Ed Wiley, served as a teacher for 18 years before retiring in 2015.

Beyond involvement with community non-profits and civic causes, we are also helping to promote the future of metal fabrication careers and welding at Marion’s Eastbrook High School. We participated in a workshop teaching and demonstrating welding practices at Eastbrook and donated more than 5,000 lbs. of steel for students to master some of their welding techniques.

The Growing Focus on STEM

In recent years, schools have been placing more emphasis of STEM education, programs that focus directly on science, technology, engineering, and math. We believe our work with Eastbrook High School and similar programs across the country, take STEM theory and show it in real-life applications. It takes STEM across the bridge from “Here’s what you could do” to “Here’s what you can do.”

Wiley Metal is not alone. Metal fabrication companies are taking welding and metal fabrication into schools across the country including Kimball, South CarolinaDeSoto County, Mississippi and elsewhere. Beyond the value of showing STEM education in action, there are multiple other reasons demonstrating welding and fabrication practices in schools makes sense for local fabricators.

Demonstrates Welding is Not Gender Specific

It wasn’t that long ago that women made up only about 2% of the welding workforce. Today, the American Welding Society estimates that number to be about 5%. While the number is growing, there is still an expected shortfall of tens of thousands of welders across the United States. Through high school fabrication and welding outreach programs, fabricators can reach young women who may otherwise dismiss potential opportunities in this career path.

Grooms Prospective Future Employees

How many high school students pass a metal fabrication facility every week without an idea of what actually takes place inside the facility? Many of these students are in the midst of making future educational and career decisions. They may not realize there are viable career options within their own community that doesn’t involve an expensive four-year degree. Many have no idea of the value of a career in welding and metal fabrication, both creatively and financially. At Wiley Metal, we are certainly hoping on seeing some of these teens joining our team in future.

Provides Students with Insights Into the Future

While students can learn the basics of stick welding and even MIG and TIG welding, they can also be provided insights into what a future in welding can include. Metal fabrication is in the middle of a technological explosion that should appeal to a younger generation. Laser welding, the Internet of Things, CoBot and Robot Implementation, the role of 3D printing, blockchain technology, AI, smart technology and more. In a previous Tiki-Talk, we discussed many of the anticipated industry trends for 2019 of which young people should become aware. Far too many have an outdated view of our industry or may not have any idea of what it takes to get involved.

It is not enough to let students and parents learn about local career opportunities or even expect local career counselors to know about careers in welding and metal fabrication. We must lift the banner and carry it into our local schools. We should serve as our own ambassadors and public relations experts.

How Fabricators Can Support Local Schools

Fabricators in the communities across America can support local high schools in a variety of ways:

  • Make tours and field trips available
  • Donating funds, equipment or raw materials to a school program
  • Build an internship program
  • Participation in “Career Days”
  • Support a local robotics program

Partnering with local school systems not only can pay dividends in recruiting and public relations but supporting education on a local basis is the right thing to do. Reach out to a local superintendent, school board member or principal and express your willingness to partner. It could lead down an interesting and rewarding path.