Project Lead the Way Utilized in Industrial Arts Program
Industrial leaders in southwest Michigan contend they can’t find qualified applicants to fill good-paying jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree. Schools have sometimes been criticized for emphasizing the need for a four-year advanced degree. But this isn’t the case in the Vicksburg school district, said Greg Mills, industrial arts teacher.
This is Mills’ first year teaching in Vicksburg. But he has vast credentials in the real world and has brought those to the classroom. The fruits of his students’ labor was on display in a real-life “Shark Tank” session in February, with teams of students solving problems in design and engineering presented by five local industries.
Stryker, Denso, Eimo, American Axle, and Humphrey Products had needs on their plant floors and decided to give the student teams the chance to solve them. They pledged to incorporate the solutions where possible and sent representatives from each firm to view each team’s presentation of their solution in Vicksburg High School’s classroom.
The idea came from the experience of a Vicksburg student in a computerized manufacturing class. Daniel Shankleton was interning at Eimo two years ago. He presented an idea for a solution to a production line problem that had vexed Jim Williams, Eimo’s tooling supervisor. Williams realized that companies could benefit from young people’s ideas and a set of fresh eyes and creative minds, if given a chance. He turned to Jason Luke at Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency’s (KRESA). Luke, a former counselor at Vicksburg, is now in charge of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) for all schools in Kalamazoo County.
“We allow kids to explore. Some love to paint, some like to build, and I tell them it’s OK to make mistakes, so long as they learn from them. They are learning to find solutions, understanding how industry really works, then they can move on to another problem inside of class, while having lots of fun, getting good grades, and learning skills that will benefit them once they get out on the job,” Mills said.