Washington County school officials called their tours of area manufacturers last week an eye-opening, informative experience. They learned what they're doing right in their classrooms and what they can improve, and they formed new partnerships.
Organized by the Washington County Workforce Alliance, the tours were meant to help educators better understand the needs of today’s workplaces.
“We should be preparing students for the world of work, but how often do we get out into the real world of work?” said Daren Sievers, the superintendent of the Slinger School District. “We needed to take a day to get out and see how it functions today.”
Over two days last week, more than 100 educators including teachers and administrators from the Slinger, West Bend and Kewaskum School Districts visited six manufacturers and two health care facilities.
For instance, 20 teachers and four administrators from the Slinger School District visited Maysteel LLC, a manufacturer of precision sheet metal enclosures, in Allenton; Triton Trailers LLC, a manufacturer of aluminum trailers in Hartford; and Aurora Advanced Healthcare in Hartford.
The following day, the group reconvened to discuss what they learned and to plan next steps.
Among the district’s future initiatives is to set up an internship program for its metal fabrication students at Maysteel, grow an already established internship program at Triton, and explore a certified nursing assistant program with Aurora.
Meanwhile, Sievers said the tours reaffirmed to the Slinger School District that it is on the right track with its technology and engineering departments, as well as its software courses.
Still, he and Kewaskum School District superintendent Jim Smasal both said work can always be done to continue teaching students soft skills such as accountability, reliability, communication and collaboration.
According to Smasal, approximately 130 teachers and 10 administrators visited Triton and Maysteel in addition to Regal Ware Inc., a maker of cookware, in Kewaskum; Serigraph Inc., a designer and manufacturer of decorative, functional and brand-related graphics, in West Bend; and Signicast Investment Castings, a leading provider of investment castings.
Smasal said the Kewaskum School District officials will have a meeting in November to discuss what they learned from the tours. Then in December he plans for the businesses to visit the schools to discuss future partnerships.
As for the district’s curriculum, he said he wants to give students more opportunities to apply their math skills and teach them how to create an environment in which they want to live and work. He said the latter can be achieved through a strong work ethic, a positive attitude and working well and professionally with colleagues.
Finally, Smasal said the work in preparing students for today’s work world needs to include parent involvement.
“We need to get the message out to parents and to show them what this century’s manufacturing looks like,” he said. “There’s many lifelong beneficial careers in manufacturing that we shouldn’t look down our nose at. It’s very computerized and very group-orientated, and there’s much more skills needed than people realize.”
Sievers added, “There’s a lot of assumptions and myths about manufacturing, but it’s not dirty and it’s not repetitive. It’s high-tech and high-skilled.”