Thursday, March 17, 2005

New Project

I have a good excuse...Really.

I know, I've heard you, I realize I've not posted anything in over a month.
But c'mon folks, you do understand that there are only 24 hours in a day, don't you?

Well, to exhonorate myself, please take a look at how I've been spending my time.
Click on this link, we call it RAMTEC

I know what you are thinking...quite a stretch for a high school art teacher. But, after all, this is me we're talking about.
Here's how it all got started:

The idea for RAMTEC was the result of conversation between friends about the state of the manufacturing industry. The following excerpt is from the March 2nd presentation by members of the RAMTEC team at a forum held by REI at the Peter B Lewis building at the Case Weatherhead School of Management. This is a portion of my speech which tells the story.

Since the spring of this past year, I have been attending the REI Tuesday discussions. My interest in regional economy stems from my work with Cleveland kids, the poorest demographic, living in the most impoverished city in America. I’ve especially been concerned with workforce development in the industrial trades and manufacturing, since I am currently teaching at Max S Hayes Vocational School in the Cleveland Municipal School District.
Topics at REI Tuesdays were always thought provoking, and I made certain to take full advantage of the networking opportunities. Through REI, I have been able to bring people and ideas back to Max Hayes that are now instrumental in the development of new projects, and providing new opportunities for our students. Already, lives are being changed.
As mentioned before, I’ve had a special interest in workforce development in the area of industry and manufacturing. Throughout the year, a recurrent theme at REI discussions has been the importance of educating the region’s workforce for tomorrow’s jobs. Other themes have included, building the area’s manufacturing base, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, and appreciative inquiry.
I began to apply this information, as well as the appreciative inquiry method of making and sustaining change, to the dilemmas that face my students and colleagues each day. One of the very apparent problems is the employment paradox facing Cleveland. The city has vast numbers of unemployed persons, yet the manufacturing industry is facing a worker shortage. Many area manufacturing companies have "Help Wanted" signs posted 365 days a year.
Max Hayes is a vocational school that trains people for manufacturing, yet very few of our students are looking for jobs in the industry. I witness the problems first hand, each and every day. There is a huge gap that exists between the needs of the manufacturing industry, and the programs in our vocational schools and community colleges. State-of-the-art equiptment that is used in the industry today is quite pricey ($200,000 - $1,000,000) and most schools can't afford to put so much money into a program that attracts very few students.
The other big problem facing the manufacturing industry is the outsourcing of jobs to China, attributed to the rising costs of manufacturing here in the United States. The high costs are due, in large part, to the standard of living in the US, and the cost of heath care benefits. Automation and robotics easily address the outsourcing problem by making production costs of American products competitive with the Chinese. One robot can do the work of 3-5 breaks...24/7...364 days a insurance salary...average lifespan...15 years.
Yet, they are being underutilized in the manufacturing industry, jobs are going overseas, companies are closing their doors, and the skilled-worker shortage remains.
I approached friends in the manufacturing industry with my questions.
What is needed to fill the gap? What can be done to save the industry?
Their answers were immediate and simple.

What is needed is a new approach to education. A manufacturing education center focusing on the specific needs of the industry, as opposed to general manufacturing job training programs. A teaching factory that could provide companies with complete automated systems and robots, as well as the operators, programmers, integration specialists, and maintenance technicians to support them. A production, training, research and development facility that would sustain itself financially. A manufacturing showcase which would attract people to the industry. And just to show that it could be done…..It would be green.
Is anything like this being done anywhere? We searched the internet…..Nothing like it.
Could it be done here in Cleveland? There could be no better place to build it.
We outlined a proposal, RAMTEC (Regional Automated Manufacturing & Technology Education Center) and are now seeking support from various sources that might be served by this project.

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