April 1, 2012

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Utah Business Staff

April 1, 2012

What would we say to our children, our posterity, about Utah and manufacturing and education? What kind of legacy are we going to leave?

KIMBALL: One thing we could tell high school students is they can go to some of these technical colleges and get training while they’re in high school and embark on their career when they’re 18 or 19. They don’t have to wait, finish high school and then go to college.

And we have some great jobs. Some of our production leaders are technicians; they’re innovators. They’re fully integrated in our company; and as we grow, they get to grow with us. That’s an opportunity. As was mentioned earlier, people happen upon manufacturing, but if they looked at it as a career choice, by the time they’re 30 or 35, they can be far ahead of their peers.

BHASKAR: We have two groups of kids: one is the Salt Lake City type group, which is for all the white collar jobs, and then we have the more rural kids. That is where we’re going to get most of the kids for manufacturing, because they’re usually working in the farms or in some local industry which is not quite white collar. We need to realize that is where we’re going to get more support in manufacturing, whether that’s in Price or Mona or any of the places where they’re used to working with their hands.

But another problem is high school counselors. They need more training on what ATCs can do and how students can get jobs in manufacturing as graduates from high school rather than waiting for 10 years to come back to manufacturing. How do we move students from K-12 into manufacturing?

STEPHENS: I sat with a manufacturing group and discussed that problem, because in St. George it is a problem. The perception of manufacturing is still not positive, unfortunately. And we sat around and talked about it and realized that students are being guided to the ATC as an alternative—they go into manufacturing as an alternative. And an alternative suggests that it’s less value.

We came up with a plan for how we are going to get rid of that perception and help everyone realize that the ATC is an option and manufacturing is a fabulous option for students. There are all kinds of opportunities to start in manufacturing and to grow—there are lots of levels of expertise in manufacturing, and it’s a high-end option, not an alternative.

BOUWHUIS: In many ways we have to change the minds of kids. Every time I take a high school student on a tour, typically they don’t know exactly what they want to do. I talked to a father the other day; his kid just came back from an LDS mission. I said, “What’s he going to do?” He said, “I don’t know. He’s just taking gen ed.”

Unfortunately, that’s the mindset of, “I’m going to explore two years of a university or a college, and then I’ll finally figure out what I want to do.” We have a better story. “Come to our institution; get a technical skill you can use your whole life, then build on it.”

I had a young man who was a machinist, the number one machinist in Skills USA. He went to the University of Utah, got his degree in engineering, got hired as a development engineer at General Motors in Michigan. There’s a story we need to tell that if you go into manufacturing, you can reach the highest levels.

But the entry card is technical education. We give them the start. We give them the ticket to get into the game, and that ticket can be built on in any higher education institution to the highest level. That’s the message we need to tell our grandkids: “Start at an ATC, and you can go as far as you want in the educational community.”

DUDASH: You make a great point. Perception-wise, people look at blue collar/white collar as divergent paths as opposed to parallel paths. And they only end up that way at the end of the story. That’s the last chapter, not the first. Where it ends is where it ends; but as parallel paths or intersecting paths, it can be what anyone wants. I don’t think that message is told very well.     

MERCIER: Another thing is how we view it as well, and how we talk about it, not just in the community, but with our own children. How many of us here would feel really good about saying,

“My son or daughter is at one of the technical colleges”?

Now, that’s not where they’re going to necessarily end up, but it’s a great starting point. And if you have some technical skills, you make great engineers. So what are we telling our own children? “Oh, no. You’re going to go to the U,” rather than saying, “Well, I’d like you to go to Davis Tech College,” and feel good about that and be proud of that.

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