Making the Future: Why Students Should Consider a Career in Advanced Manufacturing

Article by Christine Holecek, Education Specialist, Education Service Center Region 12, published in the second quarter edition of the 2018 Greater Waco Business Magazine


MANUFACTURING IS MAKING THINGS. The manufacturing career cluster focuses on planning, managing and performing the processing of materials into intermediate or final products and related professional and technical support activities such as production planning and control, maintenance, and manufacturing/process engineering. Raw materials become products such as cars, computer chips, cell phones, contact lenses, cosmetics, candy, and more.


Region 12_GWAMA Welder-webEmployees who create those goods range from production-line workers in factories assembling parts to executives in skyscrapers overseeing global operations. Repetitive tasks that typically occur in manufacturing are now being performed by robots and the automation process, which requires highly trained employees that can adapt to a variety of situations. Manufacturers today, need people who can understand highly technical information and make complex decisions. Workers are responsible for creative problem solving that ensures companies meet the highest quality standards. If you like building things, can follow detailed instructions, or are good at organizing people and processes, then manufacturing could be the right career cluster for you.

Advanced manufacturing is the integration of technology-based systems and processes in the productions of products. It entails a rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing products and processes. These manufacturing process technologies may include computer technologies such as CAD, rapid prototyping, high precision technologies, advanced robotics, automation, control system and sustainable technologies. These organizations will usually have a research and development department on-site, providing a dynamic and constantly changing environment.


The Texas Industry Cluster Initiative is building the future economy across the state by focusing on strengthening competitive advantages in six key areas, including Advanced Technologies and Manufacturing. Texas is a global leader in this sector of the economy and is home to all industrial segments, including, computer and electronic products; electrical equipment, appliance, and components; motor vehicles, bodies, trailers, and parts; food and beverage products; textile, apparel and leather products; petroleum, chemical and coal products.


Texas and Waco are no strangers to large corporations, especially those specializing in advanced technology and manufacturing. Caterpillar, Allergan, Domtar Personal Care, Texas Instruments, National Instruments, Samsung, GM, Toyota, Peterbilt, Raytheon, NXP, AMD, Applied Materials, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Fujitsu, BAE Systems, and Ultra Electronics Advanced Tactical Systems are just some of the leading companies with headquarters or a significant presence in Texas.


Logistically, the central location of Texas is unmatched, with a complete infrastructure, easily allowing companies to import and export products. We have multiple interstate highways, international airports, seaports, railways and international border crossings. With our excellent workforce, fair legal system, low taxes, and high quality of life, it is no wonder so many domestic and international companies have chosen Texas as their home and the best place to do business.


The best way for business and industry to thrive in central Texas is to focus on the pipeline of future employees, specifically by investing in the education of our high school students. Advanced Manufacturing is prominently featured at The Greater Waco Advance Manufacturing Academy (GWAMA) in Waco Independent School District. GWAMA is a unique and innovative collaboration between the local business community and the Waco Independent School District.


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The advisory board for GWAMA consists of a group of manufacturing businesses, the Waco Business League and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Business partners include: Arconic Fasteners and Rings, Association of General Contractors, Central Texas Iron Works, Capstone Mechanical, Education Service Center Region 12, CMC, Caterpillar, Heart of Texas Builders Association, Packaging Corporation of America, Lochridge Priest, Mazanec Construction, Sturdisteel, Manitou, SpaceX, Matheson Gas, Time Manufacturing, TYMCO, Trane, VANTRAN, TSquared, CPNY, Texas State Technical College and Waco Industrial Manufacturing Foundation.

What sets GWAMA apart from the vocational schools of the past is that the program is designed for all students, not just those who may not find success at a traditional school. GWAMA immerses the career and technical education courses of welding, precision metal manufacturing, electronics, and construction into science and mathematics courses. School districts that participate at GWAMA include: Robinson, Riesel, Moody, Midway, Methodist Children’s Home, McGregor, Lorena La Vega, Bruceville-Eddy, Marlin, Mexia and Troy.


Other McLennan County schools offer Advanced Manufacturing through their Agriculture Programs with an emphasis on Welding, STEM programs with an emphasis on Science, Technology Engineering and Math or an Early College High School partnership with Texas State Technical College and McLennan Community College. These schools include: Axtell, Bosqueville, China Spring, Connally, Crawford, Gholson, Hallsburg, Mart, Moody, and West.


Texas Education Agency offers several different courses in the area of manufacturing. The first course is Principles of Manufacturing. Districts can set their focus on five different career paths. The first is Diversified Manufacturing, Manufacturing Engineering Technology, Metal Fabrication and Machining, Precision Metal Manufacturing or Welding. The final course for each pathway is Practicum in Manufacturing.


Many of the programs offered in high school can be articulated or dual credit courses. These advanced manufacturing high school courses can transfer to TSTC.
The programs that transition to TSTC include but are not limited to: Building Construction Technology, Precision Metal Technology, Robotics Technology, and Welding Technology. Each of these programs offer opportunities for certificates or associate degrees.


Welding Expo Girl webEducation Service Center (ESC) Region 12 recently sponsored the Construction/Welding Expo at GWAMA. Over 300 students from across the region attended this hands-on event, with 13 school districts participating in the event. The expo was entitled “Build your Future,” and it featured opportunities to see welding, precision metal, construction and electronics/robotics. This event has evolved from the annual ESC Region 12 Welding Expo, which focused solely on welding. ESC Region 12 joined forces with Waco ISD, Matheson Gas, Association of General Contractors, Heart of Texas Builders Association and Workforce Solutions in the Heart of Texas to make this event bigger and better.


Several national vendors were in attendance previewing the latest technology in welding and construction. This expo is dedicated to promoting welding and construction as a viable option for long-lasting and profitable careers. This event was a completely hands-on, demo-style expo. Students and teachers could see and use all of the latest technology in the industry.


Area schools and businesses are working to increase student exposure to career opportunities in Advanced Manufacturing. The result of initiatives, such as the “Build The Future” Construction/Welding Expo are moving the needle in a positive direction. Recently surveyed after the expo, students noted the techniques, opportunities for high wages and career options as industry benefits and a desire to pursue additional education. Sixty percent of students surveyed stated that they are highly likely or likely to pursue a particular college, career or consider military enlistment because of this event. Eighty percent of students indicated that they will attend this event next year. Ninety percent of students said that they would recommend this event to a friend. With the success of this new venue, ESC Region 12 is committed to continuing this expo in the future.



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