Special Report: School for Skills

Special Report: School for Skills

DUBOIS CO., IN (WFIE) - Indiana is on the leading edge of a manufacturing comeback in this country.

Dubois County is a powerhouse within the state. In places like Jasper, Huntingburg, and Ferdinand, good paying manufacturing jobs are being created faster than the workforce can fill them.

Now, area manufacturers have extended their recruiting efforts all the way down to middle school.

Children are learning that manufacturing will be a very attractive option when they grow up.

It looks like Hannah Sitzman has lost control of her 6th-grade social studies class at Cedar Crest Intermediate School near Ferdinand. But this is actually a lesson in manufacturing.

In the summer of 2016, Hannah attended the Dubois County Teachers' Manufacturing Boot Camp. It was two weeks of intensive training at five area manufacturers.

"Through the boot camp I learned that there are so many jobs for kids that if they don't want to go to college, they can make a lot of money if they're going to go out and work hard and apply themselves and really try to get better," said Hannah. "They'll either pay for their schooling if they need to get more or they can work up through the company and have a great career."

Now, Hannah incorporates into the classroom lessons she learned on the factory floor.

In this exercise, Legos represent the product. That product requires a process utilizing resource acquisition, assembly, quality control, and shipping.

And all of THAT requires employees who follow instructions, stay organized and work together.

"Teamwork is very important because when you get older, you're going to be working with lots of teams," said 6th-grader Ali Wahl. "You have to learn to communicate and work with people."

Ali and her classmates, or co-workers, are learning that soft skills like that aren't just for the classroom.

"When we went to the boot camp, one of the things that stood out to me was an engineer who said punctuation is really important," said Hannah. "I told my kids that. It's not just your grammar teacher. It's not just writers, but people in the workforce need you to write an email that people can understand."

Back to the factory in a moment. Because in the classroom right door is another teacher who went to boot camp.

Kelly Schroering teaches fifth-grade science and math. She learned that manufacturers are big on setting goals and working a plan to meet them.

"One of the things we do keep track of is we have behavior goals and so my students are trying to lose ten points or less per week," said Kelly. "Just like I saw at some of the factories, if we get it, we're green. If we're close, we're yellow. And if we're really far away, we're red. Right now we are yellow. So for last week, we were yellow so this week we're hoping for green."

Back in the factory, the kids are finding that Ms. Sitzman's original assembly instructions were intentionally vague. It was up to them to fine tune the process.

Joel Bueltel and his co-workers almost perfected the process.

"I was trying to get them to that point of like 'If you take a picture of it in addition to your words, you're going to have better success.' But they didn't really pick up on that yet. But that's okay," said Hannah.

It's okay because time ran out. They'll have another chance to learn the lessons that will not only get them good grades but help them land good jobs as graduates of the class of 2024.

The next Teachers' Manufacturing Boot camp is June 11-22 this summer. The deadline to sign up is February 17. Click here to apply.

There will also be a boot camp for educators in Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick Counties. Click here to apply.

Boot Camps are also available in the Evansville area.

Copyright 2018 WFIE. All rights reserved.