District 211 students see bright future in manufacturing
"Augmented reality," the increasing use of Internet-connected equipment and a peek into a life of financial security were among the aspects of a career in advanced manufacturing students from Palatine and Schaumburg high schools sampled Friday at the Sandvik Cormorant training center in Schaumburg.
Bill Hickey, president of Lapham-Hickey Steel and chairman of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, was among those who welcomed the 50 students to the "Aspire to Manufacturing" event at the clean, brightly lit facility.
He assured them the dirty, dank and dangerous manufacturing jobs that may have existed in their parents' and grandparents' time were quickly becoming history in a competitive world.
"This is what manufacturing is today," Hickey said of the seemingly futuristic technology.
Paul Edlund, chief technologist for Microsoft Midwest, demonstrated the Microsoft HoloLens and explained its manufacturing applications. Students put on the mobile headset to see a 3-D hologram of a human anatomical model hovering in front of them that they could walk around and peer into to see its various layers.
And just as that's a useful learning tool for a medical student, so too can a manufacturing trainee look into the inner workings of an engine or similarly complex machine to understand its operation without risking his or her safety, Edlund explained.
Sandvik Cormorant manufactures metal-cutting equipment, so such a training tool is especially useful, Center Manager Kevin Clay said.
Sam Spaletto, a senior at Palatine High School, has already been taking manufacturing classes but considered the HoloLens to be the top of the many new things he saw and learned about Friday.
"This really helps," he said of the encouragement the event gave him to continue pursuing manufacturing.
Mark Hibner, the applied technology chair for District 211, said this is the fourth year such classes have been available to district students. It all began with the outreach and financial support of area companies hungry for a new generation of workers.
Clay said District 211 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 -- along with a few downstate schools -- have been leaders in helping prepare students for such opportunities.
Access to skilled workers remains among Illinois' greatest strengths in the manufacturing industry -- but the need to replenish its stock is being felt, he said.
He told the students that by 2020, the world will experience a deficit of 85 million skilled manufacturing workers. That's why today's high school students will find it such a lucrative field to enter.
He and Illinois Manufacturing Association Vice President of External Affairs Jim Nelson told students that manufacturers will pay for their education, and salaries of $86,000 for manufacturing engineers could await them.