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Leaders discuss manufacturing challenges

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Like other educational programs, high school and community college industrial manufacturing programs are feeling the money pinch.

"Butler (Community College) is like any other community college. We're facing some real challenges from funding," Buford Pringle, professor of manufacturing at the Andover campus, told a group attending the Fort Hays State University Kansas Center for Innovative Education conference Thursday.

KCIE is a division of the FHSU College of Education and Technology and provides instruction for educators and business professionals.

The conference topic was "Manufacturing: You're Talking Our Language," and brought educators and manufacturing leaders together.

"It brings together ... the educators and the people out hiring the kids," said Joe Chretien, FHSU associate professor of technology and power and energy.

"We get new ideas on curriculum -- what we can put in our class," said Orion Patrie, who teaches engineering and CAD and CAM classes at Wichita Heights High School. "We get to talk with other teachers from other schools and see what they're doing."

Manufacturing is alive and well, Chretien said, and enrollment at Butler Community College bears that out.

"We've also got some challenges in square footage because we've grown by leaps and bounds," Pringle said.

One-sixth of the jobs in the United States is dependent on manufacturing, he said.

"We have the world's most productive work force," he said. "Productivity is high because of the emphasis on skill sets, technology, and most businesses are willing to invest in technology."

Because of advanced technology, a high school graduate usually needs additional training to get a manufacturing job, Pringle said.

Besides Pringle, instructors from FHSU, Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, Hutchinson Community College, Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center and the Kansas Department of Education gave presentations.