Thanks to a partnership between two advanced manufacturing plants and two area high schools, students at Lebanon High School and Thetford Academy in Vermont can get hands-on training in engineering, manufacturing, business development, marketing, and more. Fujifilm, which manufactures print jets, and Hypertherm, which manufactures plasma-cutting equipment, hope that the program will spark students’ interest in manufacturing, according to the Valley News:
Hypertherm and Fujifilm Dimatix are partnering with Lebanon High School and Thetford Academy on a semester-long program that will rotate students through production teams at each company and immerse them into all stages of the production process.
The selected students will also earn math and science credits toward graduation as part of their participation and will be introduced to valuable workforce training skills in a growing sector of the economy that perennially is in short supply of qualified workers.
The students, eight from each school, will split the fall semester between Hypertherm and Fujifilm on each afternoon during the week and gain insight into all phases of manufacturing, from product concept to design, cost analysis, engineering, building, marketing and human resources.
Hands-on experience will be supplemented by coursework on-site at Fujifilm and Hyperthem led by company employees.
Hypertherm makes powerful plasma-cutting equipment and Fujifilm makes sophisticated industrial print jets. By immersing the students in the manufacturing process, the program’s sponsors are seeking to lift the shroud around what they do, with a factory floor that can look more like an operating room than a traditional assembly line, and shake off the image of manufacturing’s smokestack past.
“We feel that in our communities there is very little understanding of what advanced manufacturing is all about,” said Mike Baymiller, vice president of human resources at Hypertherm. “It’s important to understand what type of jobs and career opportunities exist — it’s probably not what they have as preconceived notions of traditional manufacturing…”
Once completed, students will have a leg up regardless of their post-high school plans, the organizers said.
“The students will leave high school with credits and a competitiveness that other students might not have when applying to college or talking to employers,” Roberts said. “It will really open doors for them.”
Although students will have had to pass Algebra I in order to apply, the program is designed to accommodate students of varying academic levels and interests — from those interested in studying engineering in college to those seeking a licensing credential at a community college and even those who want to enter the workforce right after high school.
“This program is designed for kids who might be going to college or might not be going to college after graduation,” said Bill Bugg, head of school of Thetford Academy. “We’re not only looking for the academically strong students, we’re looking for those students who stand to gain from hands-on education. We’re looking for a kid who has some intrinsic motivation but may not know what he or she wants to do.”
Thetford Academy’s Bugg likened the STEM program, in which Thetford and Lebanon high school students will learn first-hand from mentors at FujiFilm and Hypertherm, to apprenticeships that have long been part of the European educational system.
“I think it’s pretty unique and a model for the kind of education that is maybe more common in Europe than it is here where students are doing apprenticeship-type programs,” Bugg said. “It’s incredible exposure to a wide range of opportunities and hopefully somewhere a spark will be ignited and the kids will find their passion.”