Camp exposes teens to modern manufacturing
Three dozen high school students are heading back to school this fall with new insights about manufacturing, thanks to Virginia Beach-based Stihl Inc.
Stihl Inc. is the U.S. headquarters for Germany-based Stihl Group, which makes chainsaws and power tools. The company held its sixth Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp in July. The four-day camp was co-developed by the company with Dream It. Do It. Virginia, a program promoting advanced manufacturing careers.
A recent report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute predicts that 2 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by 2025. In part, the vacancies are expected to result from a wave of retirements by baby-boom employees and a lack of qualified job candidates to replace them.
One challenge that companies face in filling these jobs is convincing students and their parents that manufacturing offers promising careers. Today’s factory jobs involve high-tech skills and are lucrative, says Lorraine Wagner, Stihl Inc.’s director of manufacturing.
During the camp, the students were divided into groups in which advisers taught them different manufacturing skills. On the final day, teams participated in a competition to build a strength tester. Each student on the winning team, dubbed “Hulk TOUGH,” won a $1,000 scholarship from the Virginia Industry Foundation.
Aniya Burnham, 15, a rising sophomore at Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, learned about the camp from her father, a Stihl employee. “This is my second year attending the camp, so I’m very excited,” she says. “We learn a lot during it.”
Burnham was one of 10 girls participating in this year’s camp — the largest number since its inception. Teresa Behr, a technical trainer at Stihl, said that the company works on creating an inclusive environment for women in the manufacturing industry.
One former camp participant, 18-year-old Ryan Buzzy, is now a Stihl apprentice. The apprenticeship program is quite competitive. Three hundred people apply annually, on average, but only up to five people are selected.
Buzzy says the program has exceeded his expectations. “I work 40 hours a week and go to school at night and do what I enjoy while getting paid,” he says.
The camp’s goal, however, is not necessarily to recruit apprentices but to help students to explore career options. “This is how we give back to the community” and the industry, Wagner says.