HCC youth summer camp sparks interest in advanced manufacturing

Sep 13, 2018

When young people picture a career in manufacturing, many visualize a dirty, grimy and dangerous workshop where workers pull levers along an assembly line.

But that vision is far from the reality today. As manufacturing has continuously automated over the last 50 years, there are few low-skilled jobs left and many modern plants look more like laboratories than factories.

This summer, some Fort Bend County eighth graders got the chance to experience manufacturing up close and personal at a thought-provoking camp at Houston Community College.

The students learned to do computer-aided design, work with 3D printers and operate various kinds of manufacturing machinery under the close supervision of instructors.

The “Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajics” summer camp took place at the Stafford Workforce Building and was funded through a grant from the foundation of Fabricators & Manufacturers Association.

The stereotype of manufacturing as only blue-collar jobs in the shop is going out the window as young people learn about opportunities in the field, from design engineering to production control, purchasing, sales, marketing and general management jobs, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Rayven Toca, an eighth-grader at First Colony Middle School in Sugar Land, called the summer camp a “great experience.”

“It was really fun,” said Toca, 13. “I learned a lot of things about manufacturing that I didn’t know before. I like being hands-on in the world, and it definitely made me open my eyes to that field.”

Fellow eighth-grader Amarachi Nosike shared her exuberance.

After designing her initials on a computer screen, Nosike punched a button to engage a laser arm that maneuvered over a piece of glass at the workforce building. In a matter of minutes, she held up her new laser-aided design.

It may have been a small feat to others, but the new shiny nameplate was a major accomplishment for Nosike, who attends Garcia Middle School in Sugar Land.

The camp “opened doors to something I never knew I would like,” said Nosike, who was joined by her sister, Chinyere, at the camp. “I was surprised by how many jobs there are in manufacturing. At first, I thought it was just machinery and that’s all, but it’s much more.”

The skills the young people attained at the camp will go a long way toward filling crucial jobs in the industry. Manufacturers need people who can operate, maintain and troubleshoot their high-tech equipment.

“The Fab Lab gives you an eyeball into what it takes to make things with machining and 3-D printing,” said Roland Fields, supervisor and instructor at HCC’s Fabrication and Innovation Lab. “Seeing it opens your eyes to what you can do.”

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