Bringing Students into Modern Machining

Mazak’s Student Day factory tours encourage youths to pursue engineering and manufacturing careers.

Getting young people interested in manufacturing is a challenge.  The public perception is often that manufacturing is a dirty, awkward, dangerous and undesirable job. 

Those people working in the modern manufacturing industry know that this is far from the truth.  So how can the industry attract more young people to manufacturing careers?’s Jim Anderton had a chance to speak with Steve Wilkins at Mazak about the future of young people in manufacturing:

Student Day Tours for Future Manufacturing Professionals

Like many companies, Mazak believes that introducing students to the world of manufacturing at a young age will spark their interest and show them that modern manufacturing is nothing like it used to be. To that end, the company arranged for local high school students to visit the factory in Windsor Locks, Connecticut to learn about machine tools and manufacturing.

“Today we’re having student day,” said Steve Wilkins, Mazak’s general manager for the north-east region.  “We’re expecting 175 students to come through our facility today to see what I call the ‘Disneyland of machine tools’ showing multi-axis machining cutting various types of metal materials that they don’t see in their school. It is to get them excited and show them that there are strong capabilities to make big money in the manufacturing industry.”

As long-term manufacturing professionals may recall, through the 1970s and 1980s, manufacturing truly was a dirty business, with engineers even wading through spilled coolant or hydraulic oil.  

Modern factories are nothing like this, instead requiring a cleanliness bordering on a clean room.

“Nowadays in shops, the operators and these young kids will have work centers. They have their computer right next to their machine, working with editing programs they got from the main file in the office,” said Wilkins.

And the Mazak factory does feel like an office environment.  The building is air conditioned, the air is clear since most machines come with a filtration system to remove dust and particulates and the factory floors are clean and organized. “It’s a nice environment to work in,” added Wilkins. “It is high tech.”

A Brave New World of Manufacturing and Machining

Wilkins also addressed a common student misconception: “I don’t want to work with machine tools, I want to work with computers.”

“These machines are definitely computers. To stay current, the technology in the computer on the machine tool is like your laptop. You constantly want to upgrade to have the most efficient capability with your machine, with the computers and the drives and so forth. So absolutely, everything is computerized.” This computerization of manufacturing is still growing, toward another level with what’s become known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

“Everything’s going to have a chip, that’s a whole new level of technology that these students will be exposed to in the future,” Wilkins added.

Sometimes young people simply aren’t aware of which industries machining manufacturing supplies parts to and how exciting these industries are. The aerospace and medical sectors are two of the big ones, along with automotive and energy.

“We use a term that describes the machine tool as the “mother machine.” It is the machine that makes all the parts for other machines that make our life possible,” said Wilkins. “A part needs to be made to make everything, and isn’t it cool that you’re the one making those parts?”

Finding Great People – And Keeping Them

Finding great people, hiring them and retaining them is possibly the number one challenge facing the manufacturing industry across the country.  What Mazak is doing with Student Day at their facility is a great first step to bringing young people into manufacturing

Programs such as this could be duplicated at the job-shop level, offering students a chance for an even deeper understanding of machine tools and manufacturing opportunities. 

If the industry can get these young adults interested, they are the ones who will be the future workforce seeking jobs in these sectors.

“As a matter of fact, there are a couple of job shop owners who are here today. They call it “fishing”, where they are keeping an eye on some of these students who they might want to hire.,” Wilkins commented. “I think it’s a pretty neat concept, that they were smart enough to come here on Student Day to see who they might want to have into their shop.”

For more information on milling tools and manufacturing, visit Mazak USA.