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'Saving' The Next Generation Of Manufacturing Workers

Tue, 06/25/2013 - 8:01am
Joel Hans, Managing Editor, Manufacturing.net

Joel Hans, Managing Editor, Manufacturing.net When it comes to the monumental task of training another generation of manufacturing employees, armed with the high-tech skills that the technology-heavy processes of the future will require, it’s easy to come down hard on the educational system. There are some basic tropes: guidance counselors push all students toward an undergraduate degree; shop classes are being shuttered; educators aren’t as focused or driven as they used to be, or that they’re over/underpaid, depending on who’s talking; the current system only seeks to help students achieve on standardized tests. There are more, but the point is that many people believe there are fundamental problems with America’s current educational system.

And they’re right. There are problems — no point in arguing otherwise. But I think educators often get unfairly blamed as the catalyst for the problems our educational system is currently dealing with. In my opinion, good educators are just about the only positive the system has left. And yes, there are bad educators, just like there are bad maintenance technicians or bad managers, but that shouldn’t detract from those who care and who work hard despite the poor infrastructure to help students get the education they need.

National Instruments, the Austin, Texas-based maker of equipment and software for engineers in a variety of industries, has been leading a nationwide effort to highlight just how important good educators are to the educational system. Their new guidebook, titled “Saving the World One Student at a Time,” aims to showcase, primarily, “the moment [educators] progressed from inspiring individual students to inspiring entire classrooms full of them.”

All of the stories are remarkable in their own rights, but some educators — such as Dave Barrett, a professor of mechanical engineering and Olin College — have gone above and beyond their call to change old paradigms in order to help better educate a generation of students that simply don’t learn the same way as previous generations have. That’s exactly what Barrett found, and then set about fixing it.

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