I also had the privilege this month of participating as a mechatronics judge in the SkillsUSA Pennsylvania statewide competition. We didn't have as many schools competing in our area as there were in cosmetology, but instructors and school administrators kept coming by throughout the day to see what the mechatronics competition was about. It was about students working in teams to solve electrical, mechanical, fluid power, control and logic problems. It was about passing a written test, and designing, building, programming, starting up and troubleshooting real electro-pneumatic, PLC controlled systems that students had never seen before, all under the pressure of time and under the constant watchful eye of the judges. If that doesn't sound like the typical day of a maintenance technician in a modern packaging plant, I don't know what does.
While most high schools ignore training young people for gold collar jobs in industrial maintenance and manufacturing operations, a few are doing an excellent job. In many cases, these schools have given an unusual amount of freedom to administrators and instructors who are not career educators, but are folks who have been recycled from industry. These transplants have been responsive to industry needs and have tailored curriculum to include meaningful topics that help students to appreciate math, science and language as it applies to contemporary real life situations.
As industry professionals, we need to make our voices and our needs heard so that more schools will teach young people the skills and knowledge that they will need in the workplaces of the future. In many cases, drastic changes in the education system as we know it will be required. We must not shirk from our responsibilities to future generations.