St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Decline in shop class offerings blamed for lack of manufacturing workers

  • “Those are considered elective classes in almost every school system. And electives right now are on the endangered species list.”
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  • As some Minnesota companies struggle to fill manufacturing jobs some people are blaming a decline in high schools’ shop class offerings.
    They say too many young people aren’t being exposed to industrial technology careers, in part because the federal No Childe Behind Initiative has induced high schools to shift resources toward core subject areas of math and reading. Shop classes like machining, welding and robotics are being crowded out, Minnesota public Radio reported.
    “Those are considered elective classes in almost every school system,” said Mike Lindstrom, a retired industrial technology teacher from Coon Rapids who is active in the Minnesota Technology and Engineering Educators Association. “And electives right now are on the endangered species list.”
    Manufacturing jobs in Minnesota pay an average salary of more than $56,000. But some companies find it hard to find enough qualified workers. That includes Graphic Packaging, a company in Crosby that builds packaging machines.
    Human resources manager Theresa Schermerhorn said she recruits across the state for people with a background in robotics or computer-aided machines, and for people who have electrical or mechanical skills. She said those skills are tougher to find because they aren’t valued as they used to be.
    “Parents want their children to go to college,” Schermerhorn said. “That’s been this last generation’s push. You have to have a college degree to have a good job. And that’s not true anymore.”
    To stimulate interest in such jobs, Central Lakes College in Brainerd has a career exploration day every year for high school students. This year’s drew 2,200 students from 21 high schools. There was a high tech welding simulator in one corner and a robotics demonstration in the other.
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