- Last month, New Jersey's Bergen County school district launched a new vocational program that aims to give students a hands-on education in manufacturing.
- The MechaForce program is funded in part by donations from local manufacturers, who are also helping provide career advice and curriculum feedback.
- The program is one of several around the state and could eventually be expanded into a statewide program that includes a college degree, helping prepare students for jobs in the state’s manufacturing industry.
The Bergen County program was intended to address a problem shared by manufacturing industry hubs across the country: too few prepared applicants. “Modern high-technology manufacturing is not what many people have in their heads,” Joann Mitchell, senior project leader at Sandvik Coromant, a tooling company involved with the MechaForce project, told eSchool News. “Maybe in the old days you could get somebody who was middle-skilled or semiskilled, and they could work it out. These days the skill set is high technology. You are using robots, geometry, algebra, science.”
The program is based on a German model where companies work closely with unions and schools to pay for students’ training and make sure they are appropriately prepared to enter the industry. State and district leaders worked with German experts to learn what worked for them. Other states looking to solve similar problems might do well to take a page from New Jersey's book and reach across the pond.