I didn’t come up with that headline just because the Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA National Football Championship or because I’m hopeful for how far the Cavs can go during this NBA playoff season. I’m thinking about the tens of thousands of students who are competing for top honors in STEM courses like Robotics and Precision Machining and how terrific it is for us to engage these students, many of whom are preparing to become our industry’s next generation of machinists and engineers.
As I write this, I’ve just returned from the FIRST™ National Championships in St. Louis, Mo. There were more than 18,000 students competing in the championships on teams with more than 800 robots. AMT Advocacy and Smartforce teamed up as an exhibitor at the championships, so that we could have the opportunity to interact with students, parents and educators in discussions about a career in manufacturing. We found an audience who was very open to joining our industry in the near future.

Earlier in the week on April 23, or National Take Your Kids to Work Day, I participated in an open house at BIG Kaiser in suburban Chicago. Chris Kaiser and his team put on an annual event during which his company invites students, parents and educators to his state-of-the-art facility. Having done this event in the past, I was happy to join Chris to speak with the audience and have the Strati, the 3D printed car, and the Smartforce Rally Fighter on the sidelines with me.

Many of the conversations that I had were with young women who have already decided that they want to become mechanical engineers. They were intelligent, focused and doing everything that they could to prepare themselves for their future…real winners, and I came away from that event thinking that our industry seems to finally be winning the hearts and minds of a significant number of young people. That sense grew even stronger during the weekend at FIRST™.

A colleague commented to me that being at FIRST™ was like preaching to the choir, and I responded: “Yes, and the choir is growing.”

Next month, I’ll be participating with NIMS as an Advisor to the SkillsUSA National Championships in precision machining in Louisville, Ky. Once again, the best and brightest high school and community college machinists will be competing in the vocation that they’ve chosen as their career path.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to attend a student competition like this or support a FIRST™ team, I highly recommend that you look into it. Keeping our industry in front of these students is the only way that we will win the battle of the skills gap.

The best part of my job is to see the faces of this next generation and talk to them about their aspirations. I always come away more hopeful about the future of advanced manufacturing. 

Tell us about the winners in your community. We are embarking on a new campaign to showcase students who are champions in their career path, and we’d like to share their stories with other young people. 

Contact me at 703-827-5203 or gjones@AMTonline.org, or follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates: @GregoryAJones.