High school manufacturing program sets an example for Tennessee industry


When Brianna Rodriguez entered her first high school drawing class, she saw a room filled with “only guys.”

It intimidated him.

She had always been “infatuated with doing things.” She bought tons of Lego sets when she was a girl and built houses with them. Everyone had to be perfect, she said.

The drawing class took that passion to another level, and even though she was one of the only girls, she knew this was the place for her. Today, she is one of 230 students in the manufacturing program at Desert View High School in Arizona.

At school, Rodriguez, 17, and his classmates apply math, science and entrepreneurial skills to the real world by designing parts, building prototypes and learning to code in the professional machine shop. from their school.

“She rides on these machines and she’s full of power,” program director Cesar Gutierrez said of Rodriguez.

And that kind of empowerment is the purpose of the program.

Johnny Freeze, far right, is on a tour of the Peterson Tool Company for students at Desert View High School in Arizona who were in town for a lecture on Monday, February 10, 2020.

By working with industry employers, Gutierrez creates pathways to connect teens to manufacturing careers. Its high school students can receive up to 25 college credits – nearly a full year of study – for their associate’s degree in industrial technology, through a partnership with a community college in Tucson, Arizona.

Students also hold contract jobs. Their projects include building parts for an aerospace company, creating metal panels for businesses, and even building devices that help baseball and softball players perfect their swing.

The school’s program is one of the largest and most awarded in the country – and the money earned allows students to visit manufacturing companies across the United States and expand their horizons beyond the city ​​that many have never left before.

This week, they came to Tennessee to attend a manufacturing conference for a computer-aided design software company. Solid works. They also toured Nashville Peterson Tool Company. Desert View students chatted with fabrication shop professionals about the intricacies of machining and met the company’s CEO, Diane Peterson Edwards, one of the few female leaders in the industry. .

Desert View’s manufacturing program, Edwards said, is a model for what can come out of legislation like that of Governor Bill Lee GIVE vocational training initiative – an effort to identify “skills gaps” in local labor pools and to develop learning and workplace learning opportunities for students to meet these needs.

But it can’t just be schools at work, Gutierrez said.

“It’s extremely important when you have industry buy-in and someone else believes in students other than their teachers,” Gutierrez said. “It motivates students to do more with their lives. They are starting to feel confident in their abilities. And this is extremely important for today’s generation.”

Tennessee placed emphasis on workplace learning

In the Address by the Governor on the State of the State Earlier this month, Lee showcased several education initiatives, including teacher development and a focus on early literacy. He stressed that each is designed to produce economic and workforce development.

“The real measure of a successful education system is a cohort of high school graduates who are well prepared to be productive citizens, whether they choose a career or a college. For me, education is not just a matter. of test result, “he said. .

Joe Raker, right, conducts a tour of the Peterson Tool Company for students at Desert View High School in Arizona who were in town for a lecture on Monday, February 10, 2020.

A year ago, Lee announced his first legislative initiative, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE). Additional grants of $ 25 million were awarded in 2019 to technical and community college initiatives to connect with young students.

Workforce development programs can address critical workforce development issues that could cripple manufacturing.

“We understand the importance of maintaining manufacturing in America,” Edwards said. “And without the participation of our youth, we will lose this.”

These pathways also create more varied pathways to success and can help students overcome inequalities that may hold them back.

“It’s really exhilarating”

Desert View is a Title I school where 83% of the students are Hispanic. They come from a community in southern Tucson where both parents have to work to support the household.

When they leave Desert View, most students will be first generation high school and college graduates. For them, being exposed to manufacturing changes the lives of some.

“It’s all for the opportunity,” said Gutierrez.

Similar in some respects to Metro Nashville public school academy model in its high schools, Desert View High School has three academies in the same school. This includes the iSTEM Academy, which houses programs in precision machining, mechanical drawing, engineering, and computer maintenance and repair.

Clarissa Frisby, a student at Desert View High School in Arizona - in town for a lecture - inspects a form insert during a visit to the Peterson Tool Company on Monday, February 10, 2020.

In the machine shop, the students work with aluminum. Much of what they do is for professional certifications, using mills to create square pieces or circular lathes to make things like screws.

“I always jump because they’re so fast, spinning at 5,000 rpm,” Desert View senior Ramon Cazares said with a smile. “It’s really exhilarating and so satisfying to cut metal.”

Like many of his classmates, Cazares is now considering getting into engineering. He will be a first generation student and he is excited for the future.

The manufacturing program continues to “give me all of these options and different avenues that I can take,” he said. “It opened my eyes.”

And, more than that, it prepares him and his classmates for success.

“It’s crazy, we have such a head start,” he said. “Thinking that we can come in and know more than some people who are hired with very little experience. That’s cool.”

Not your grandfather’s manufacturing plant

Work-based learning benefits counties – in Tennessee and elsewhere – hungry for a young workforce.

Unique programs across Tennessee help students develop the skills needed for high-paying advanced manufacturing positions, while completing their high school courses.

Auto component maker Gestamp in Chattanooga and tool maker Stanley Black & Decker in Jackson, Tenn., Have been pioneers in student opportunities.

In each company, a small group of teenagers work four hours a day in the fabrication shop. The other half of the day they work on algebra, biology and English literature – in a classroom built inside the manufacturing plants.

LOOP math teacher Bob Lay instructs high school students Bravian Mcgoughy and Savannah Simmons in a classroom at the Stanley Black & Decker factory in Jackson, Tennessee on November 21, 2019. LOOP is a unique learning program based on the work in which high school students show up to the factory instead of the school.

It takes real corporate buy-in to get there. Stanley Black & Decker had a big incentive: Over the next five years, 30% of the company’s 800 employees will be eligible for retirement. It’s an industry-wide problem.

“Tech schools attract a lot of students, but they don’t attract them into manufacturing,” said William H. Edwards, executive director of Peterson Tool Company. “They attract them into computer programming, electronics and computer repair.

“What we’re trying to do is let people know that in manufacturing there’s computer-aided design. It’s not your grandfather’s factory anymore. It’s not a lot. oils. You don’t come home dirty and greasy. Learn to program machines. “

‘An inspiration’

Peterson Tool Company would like to implement their own program for high school students, but it’s not that simple.

An apprenticeship program run by the company in conjunction with Nashville Tech captured the interest of only a few students. It’s not enough, said Diane Edwards. That’s why she’s happy to organize tours for visiting Arizona high school students.

“It’s really important because they open the doors to their world,” said Gutierrez, “and once you do that, you welcome new generations and new innovations. It’s the new creative minds that come out.”

Joe Raker, left, conducts a tour of the Peterson Tool Company for students at Desert View High School in Arizona who were in town for a lecture on Monday, February 10, 2020.

As Rodriguez and his classmates walked through the Peterson Tool fabrication shop, they showed genuine curiosity. While the machines roared and buzzed, students often stopped at a workstation to ask questions about a specific process. They nodded when they heard of a four-axis vertical grinder and tilted their heads intently over a shaving tool.

Being a part of the Desert View manufacturing program “definitely brought out a lot of skills and talents that I never thought I had,” Rodriguez said.

And be inside Peterson? “It’s an inspiration,” she said.

Contact Jessica Bliss at 615-259-8253 and [email protected] or on Twitter @jlbliss and thank you for supporting local journalism.

Rejected: Nashville schoolchildren left behind in booming city

Nashville’s “it city” status continues to increase, attracting new tourists, development, money and attention. But the economic boom has not changed the struggle for Metro Nashville public schools, where rooted disparities in race, income and social status persist.

Not all children have the same chance to succeed.

The gap between the city’s prosperity and educational opportunities for its children has only widened.

Over the next several months, The Tennessean will continue to examine how Nashville’s public schools have become so unequal and how the city can provide the same opportunities for all of its students.

To learn more, visit laid.tennessean.com and share your comments [email protected]

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