Minnesota’s manufacturing sector plays an important role in the state’s economic well-being. Yet attracting skilled workers to enter the manufacturing world has been challenging, despite numerous job openings. Misconceptions about the industry are sabotaging incentives for young workers to pursue great career opportunities in this field.

But two companies just outside the Twin Cities area are determined to combat negative perceptions about manufacturing and change its overall image.

Productivity Incorporated, a metalworking machine supplier in Plymouth, held its 19thbiennial Heavy Metal ShowcaseSeptember 26-28. The show’s Student Day event on September 25 gave over 1,100 high school and vocational tech students a behind-the-scenes look at what manufacturing is. And what it isn’t—a dark, dirty, and dangerous environment that requires no skills.

From robotics to 3D metal printing, students witnessed machine demonstrations on some of the finest metalworking products and learned there’s more to operating these complex machines than just pushing a button. They also heard from special guest speaker Titan Gilroy of TITANS of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) about the importance of CNC machining education.

E.J. Ajax, a metalforming company in Fridley, hosted its own group of students from area high schools during National Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) on October 5. There are over 2,600 MFG Day events planned in the United States for 2017, including 28 in Minnesota. MFG Daygives manufacturers like Ajax the opportunity “to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry.”

Ajax’s metalforming professionals gave facility tours and showed students how metal parts are created from the software design stage through production.

By the end of the tour, students had a new spin on metalforming—literally. Each student was given a fidget spinner made with an aluminum frame designed and produced by Ajax.

Students today have the potential to be tomorrow’s manufacturing professionals. Thank you, Productivity Inc. and E.J. Ajax, for making students aware of the promising futures manufacturing offers and the importance of this industry in our great state.

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