From the magazine PROFILES:
While I was reading the Winter edition of PROfiles, I came across the feature article titled “Building the Future: Finding Talent,” which included stories about Manufacturing Day events. MFG Day, as it is known, is a celebration of modern manufacturing held every year on the first Friday in October.
MFG Day events are meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers, but reading about these events inspired me. Although MFG Day originated in the US, I immediately knew we had to have a MFG Day at our shop in Canada.
I began by calling high schools to ask if they wanted to collaborate with us. I was disheartened to learn how few of them offered wood shop classes, but it made me more determined to host an event.
After quite a few “We don’t teach that here” responses, I finally found Andy, the woodworking teacher at Westview Secondary School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
He was thrilled by the idea. Two days later, he was in my shop, and within the week I visited the school’s shop. We officially scheduled our MFG Day event for October, but then our story took an unexpected turn.
Andy called near the end of April and asked if we could put it together in three weeks – before the school year ended. “Why not?” I said, and we scheduled the event for May 16.
Andy also invited me to come see his team perform in the woodworking challenge at the Provincial Skills Competition on May 1 in Abbotsford, BC.
The Skills Canada Competition promotes careers in the skilled trade and technology sectors primarily through the annual Skills Canada National Competition, as well as
through provincial and territorial competitions hosted by member organizations. These competitions are free and open to the public, which is invited to try a variety of skilled trade and technology activities at several Try-a-Trade@ and Technology stations. Every two years, top medalists of the Skills Canada National Competition continue their training to secure placement on WorldSkills Team Canada and compete at the WorldSkills Competition.
I was happy for the opportunity to attend the provincial event, but it was disheartening to see so few woodworking students at the competition; to rub salt in the wound,
the IT department took up a quarter of the hall. (Wood- workers may be seen as a dying breed by some, but we
did outnumber the masonry section, which had only three students.)
After I came back from the competition, I was even more excited about our open house. I just didn’t know where to start. Although the MFG Day website includes pointers and hints, I still wasn’t entirely sure about how to proceed.
Then the Spring issue of PROfiles arrived, and I saw the cover story on CK Valenti Designs.
I was excited to read about the competition and open house Chris Valenti has for middle schoolers. I contacted him, and his suggestions gave me the details and inspiration I needed to plan our event.
Our goal was to have kids from grades 9-12 come into a shop and see firsthand that woodworking is not a dying artisan trade and that there can actually be a future (and money) in this field. In short, we wanted to advocate for the industry.
I also reached out to some suppliers to see if they’d be willing to participate. They were really excited and jumped on board.
A GREAT EVENT
Just before noon on May 16, the school bus full of kids arrived as planned.
We had a short presentation about Sofo, and then we went straight into the shop to show them how we work. The students saw how a job progresses, from the drawing stage through the entire shop. Then they got to see the CNC cutting their “project” (a three-part chair that they would assemble after lunch).
Then we had a lunch break with Subway platters, donuts, and pop. During lunch, the BLUM rep also presented some working models.
After that it was back into the shop for the students to assemble their chairs.
Everyone got to keep their chairs and also took home a bag with goodies from the sponsors.
THE TAKEAWAY FOR YOU
If you’re considering doing something like this, don’t just think about it: Do it!
Reach out to CMA members and ask for help. Reach out to suppliers, who are usually more than happy to pitch in. Forma- tions, our local sheet-good supplier, donated all the plywood, Mckillican paid for Subway, and BLUM provided the snacks and beverages. They all donated things for the goodie bags, too.
There’s still time for you to participate in the American MFG Day in October – make a plan now!
— Monika Soos, Sofo Kitchens (Maple Ridge, British Columbia)