Imagine thousands of young people in your county suddenly driven to join the manufacturing workforce. Jason Luke utilized financial, material and human resources in Kalamazoo County to turn that impossible dream into reality. Luke took a small pilot program for Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and transformed it into a career-readiness program with over 10,000 students projected to participate during the 2015-16 school year.
It is a mission he took on when he discovered the significant gap between manufacturing’s reputation and the industry’s actual value to Michigan.
“Almost everyone understands manufacturing’s value, but many see it as a job for someone else, someone who is not their child,” said Luke. “If everyone believes it is someone else’s problem to solve, eventually the new people that are coming in cannot make up for the workers that are retiring. That’s where we are today. We must build a dialogue between employers and educators. Collaboration is key to solving this problem.”
Collaboration is happening in Kalamazoo County. Luke has asked nearly every business owner, education professional and organization executive in the region to volunteer in the PLTW classrooms. Thanks to Luke’s efforts, many area businesses have contributed much-needed financial support and act as mentors to interested students.
“Every person can do something to bring attention to the outstanding careers in manufacturing,” said Luke. “If you are an educator, begin integrating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) into the curriculum. If you are a parent or student, begin having real conversations about available career options. And, if you are a manufacturer, you need to get out and connect with your community. We depend on you for so much because you are the experts on manufacturing. These conversations need to start with you.”
For these reasons and many others, MMA is proud to honor Jason Luke, of Kalamazoo RESA’s Education for Employment, as the 2014 Manufacturing Talent Champion.
This article appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of MiMfg Magazine.