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Communicating Opportunities to Our Future Workforce

About the Author

Phil Mintz

North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Assistant Director
Industrial Extension Service,
North Carolina State University

  • 25+ years of manufacturing and engineering experience with a focus on quality management and process improvement
  • 10 years in the aerospace industry, serving as a technical consultant to the U.S. Navy Procurement Office, an estimating analyst for Lockheed-Martin Engineering and Sciences Company, and an engineer for the Electronic Systems Division at Westinghouse Electric Corporation
  • Master of Science in Industrial Engineering, North Carolina A&T State University; Bachelor of Science in Engineering Operations, North Carolina State University

Communicating Opportunities to our Future Workforce

by Phil Mintz
North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership

I recently had the privilege to be part of a "job shadow day" involving two local high school juniors. Since my work involves university industrial extension, I spend time on campus as well as in manufacturing facilities. I decided to make our agenda cover both aspects.

The information I received in advance indicated that one of the participating students was interested in a mechanical engineering career. Specifically, she is interested in becoming a weapons developer. She had told her mother that this would require studying at a military academy. I wondered what Web site had delivered such misinformation.

When we speak about careers in manufacturing, we talk a lot about the shortage of labor to run our factories' machines. We also need to speak about the opportunities available to students with the aptitude to become our mechanical designers and process engineers. These students have access to great programs in subjects like robot design, but that is not manufacturing. We need to take the next step: showing them how these activities fit into the factory setting. Students need to see how machines and technology are integrated to make the products society uses every day.

We began our shadow day with a university professor in the mechanical engineering teaching labs. The aspiring weapons developer learned of several areas of study our mechanical engineers must understand -- e.g., fluid flows, heat transfer and mechanical controls. We also visited two manufacturing facilities where the students met an industrial engineer, who is a vice president of quality and safety; a mechanical engineer, who designs and builds equipment to increase operational efficiencies; an electrical engineer, who designs the circuits that ensure the proper function of custom automated equipment; and two encouraging company presidents.

We all have to do more to familiarize students with real manufacturing in all its glorious splendor. Our bright high school juniors have difficult decisions to make. Let's not leave it completely up to them and the Internet.

North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership
The North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) is a university-affiliated center of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). Housed in the Industrial Extension Service (IES) at North Carolina State University, NCMEP provides manufacturing services that enhance productivity, quality, innovation and technological performance to strengthen the global competitiveness of small and medium-sized North Carolina manufacturing firms. NCMEP at IES operates as a public-private partnership, leveraging relationships with state economic development programs, local community growth alliances and private industry contributors to develop and deploy projects that optimize business results and economic impact. For more information, contact Phil Mintz: or 336-202-8256.

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