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Manufacturing Renaissance Flexes National Influence

From meeting with the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology to presenting at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, the Chicago-based Manufacturing Renaissance gathers a head of steam as it advocates for improved technical education in the U.S.

MECH Creations entrepreneurs: Rashad Kemp, Jennifer Curtis, Kenney Plymouth, Desiree Wordlaw and Brandi Scott - pictured with Dan Swinney.
MECH Creations entrepreneurs: Rashad Kemp, Jennifer Curtis, Kenney Plymouth, Desiree Wordlaw and Brandi Scott - pictured with Dan Swinney.

I first became aware of the Manufacturing Renaissance (formerly known as the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council) during the decision process to award Austin Polytechnical Academy’s (APA) Advanced Manufacturing Career Program with the David A. Harvey Scholarship at The Automation Conference this year.  APA is a college and career prep public high school with a focus on manufacturing and engineering operated by Manufacturing Renaissance.

Read more about the awarding of the David A. Harvey scholarship.

Following this year’s conference, we’ve maintained contact with Manufacturing Renaissance and recently received an update on their activities from Dan Swinney, the organization’s executive director. Here’s a rundown of what he’s been up to in the few weeks since the conference took place:

•   He presented to the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and stressed the importance of linking "institutional innovation" such as educational reform at places like APA with technological innovation 
to ensure that “our innovative capacity builds our entire society and doesn't increase economic polarization.”

•   Swinney also attended a 3.5-hour brainstorming session on high school redesign with Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Department of Education; Seth Harris, Acting Secretary of Labor; James Kvaal, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council; and Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council.  “Arne was pleased with the reports he has heard on Austin Polytech and plans to visit this fall,” Swinney says. “The President wants to take action on high school redesign as reflected in his recent $300 million proposal to Congress.  While that proposal winds its way through the mysterious labyrinth of Congress, the President wants to take executive action now.  We have submitted a concept paper for $16.5 million for the replication of APA in five new cities.”

•   He also noted that the AFL-CIO has joined the leadership team of the National Manufacturing Renaissance Campaign.  “This represents a significant shift in the strategic perspectives of the labor movement and their interest in being part of a proactive effort with new partners,” Swinney adds.

•   Swinney also attended the Clinton Global Initiative America 2013 meeting and spoke there about Manufacturing Renaissance’s national commitments.  See a video of his report from that meeting in a video at bottom of this article.

As for APA, Swinney says they have completed a “banner year and have much to celebrate.” Among the milestones APA achieved this year are:

•   On-track-to-graduate rates have increased significantly for freshman — 84 percent (up from 53 percent last year); sophomores — 71 percent; juniors —84 percent; and seniors —100%.  Swinney adds that “100 percent of our graduating seniors have been accepted to college and completed the FAFSA (application for federal student aid).”

•   140 students were enrolled at APA this year and they have 185 students enrolled already for the coming year.

•   One hundred forty-four APA students have earned a total of 218 NIMS (National Institute of Metalworking Skills) nationally recognized work credentials.

•   Kenney Plymouth, a junior at APA, won the Illinois state SkillsUSA championship in programming CNC machines. He is also the first Chicago student to win this award as well as the first APA student to go to the national competition The Chicago Tribune published a feature article on Kenny and APA.

•   Also, APA students launched MECH Creations, a student-run cooperative business.  They secured a patent design, have a business plan, acquired materials, and are beginning production (see picture of them in upper left corner of this article).

Needless to say, we couldn’t be happier with our decision to award this year’s David A. Harvey scholarship to APA. Their clear and active promotion of practical technical skills and advocacy, through Manufacturing Renaissance, to improve technical education in the U.S. is something to be admired.

See a video of Dan Swinney’s report from the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.

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