Pinkerton Pilots Manufacturing Program for Real-World Needs

Brian Jarvis makes his Introduction to Manufacturing class at Pinkerton Academy as real-world as possible. He’s formed a mini-factory with his 14 students in the inaugural program, and had them run the numbers on a theoretical business. After figuring out that it would cost $190 per day to pay the “employees” and $35 for materials for a clever key-shaped key rack, “they realized that they would have to sell the racks for $106 each.” The students began discussing what steps they could skip and how they could save on materials. One enterprising student suggested, “I think we should get rid of middle management (the teachers).”

The manufacturing program is being piloted this year after research by the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) staff showed that skilled – and even unskilled – manufacturing jobs are coming back from overseas. With the introductory course and plans for an advanced course, Pinkerton is poised to give its students the skills to compete for the best manufacturing jobs.
Jack Grube, director of Career and Technical Education at the semi-private high school, said the faculty began looking at adding a manufacturing component four or five years ago, when they were planning the most recent renovation to the CTE buildings. “We looked at what programs we have and don’t have,” he said. “We decided to explore the feasibility of slowly growing a manufacturing program.”
The equipment is expensive, Grube explained, so they created a “hybrid model” with a strong business partnership.
Doug Cullen, career coordinator for the new program, said the goal is for partners in industry to execute the curriculum and students to produce a “capstone project” in conjunction with the industry partners. This will be accomplished through Extended Learning Opportunities or ELOs, in which the student goes to the factory or plant.
Six manufacturing plants are currently enlisted for the program, with another half-dozen or more in the works, Cullen said. The WireBelt company of Londonderry has expressed the most interest, and students in the Architecture program are working with the company on a project, he said.
Manufacturing is coming back with a roar, according to Cullen. It is the largest industry in New Hampshire, with more jobs than qualified candidates. “There is a huge interest in the industry, in two-year colleges, for high schools to get on board with this,” he said.
The opportunities have come full-circle from when Cullen was a child, and a worker could make a good living and support a family from “down at the plant.” There are high-paying, high-skilled jobs on the horizon, jobs for a lifetime, for today’s students, he said.
The difference? The jobs are more advanced, with transferrable skills, he said.
He recently talked with the plant manager of a Southern New Hampshire firm who told Cullen, “If he could find a student capable of running a particular machine, the company would help that student get a two-year degree at Nashua Community College.” The $1 to $3 million piece of equipment has been dormant for months, Cullen said, while the plant manager searched for an operator.
And there’s money to get them there, Cullen said. The Obama administration has allotted $2 billion for manufacturing education, and the New Hampshire community colleges have been awarded $20 million.
While companies are still outsourcing jobs, the jobs being shipped overseas are largely unskilled, Cullen observed. But even those are coming back to the States, he said, as manufacturers realize the high cost of shipping their goods back.
Jarvis’s students started with a simple project, the key rack, a piece of wood shaped like an old-fashioned key with vintage-style “skeleton” keys as the hooks. “The kids got excited, brainstormed, came back with original designs,” he said. They did a prototype, broke it into the “pieces” needed for assembly and are now in the process of manufacturing, he said.
Jarvis distinguished between manufacturing class and traditional shop class. In “shop,” students learn the skills and then go off and work on their own projects. In manufacturing it’s the opposite. They brainstorm materials, have a daily team meeting, and learn all aspects of putting out a product. He also teaches the “soft” skills, such as how to greet a person and how to dress for an interview.
The class is currently one semester, and Cullen is exploring the possibility of adding a second semester, which would be more hands-on and project-oriented, he said.
Ben Robertson, a freshman from Derry, signed up for Manufacturing because “I really like making things.”
He’s enjoying the key rack project, he said. “We do it as a class. We try different things, to make the process go faster,” he said.
He went on a recent field trip and learned a lot from visiting manufacturing plants, he said.
Ben would like to take the second semester, if it becomes a reality, and he wouldn’t mind seeing manufacturing expanded to a regular two-year CTE certificate program. “That would be really cool,” he said.
There will be jobs, Cullen predicted. “There’s one man working at WireBelt now, and he’s 74 years old. He’s eventually going to retire,” he said. He paused, then added, “He’s the only one who can run his machine.”