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Building foundations

Raising awareness in young people about the benefits of a manufacturing career

Ready to get to work, a young welding student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis.

Pandemic, politics and social unrest notwithstanding, there’s been no shortage of feel-good stories this year from Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs (NBT), the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA). Here are a few examples:

  • Robert Staudigal is a student at Pennsylvania College of Technology. After spending four years pursuing a mechanical engineering career, Staudigal found he wanted to be more hands-on and spend more time in the shop, so he switched his major to welding and fabrication engineering technology. A scholarship from NBT helped with tuition costs.
  • Jeremy Kaszycki had similar assistance, using the $2,500 he received from NBT to attend Bradley University and graduate cum laude with a degree in manufacturing engineering. Kaszycki now works at Magna International and says he plays a vital role in helping to eliminate waste, reduce variation andimprove quality within the automotive supplier’s manufacturing processes.
    Learning to weld at the Girls Make It Real: Imagine, Design, Manufacture camp at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Wis.
  • For Auburn University mechanical engineering student Caleb Cutts, NBT has helped him stay out of debt as he works toward a career that “lines up with everything he believes in and likes to do.” And, Detroit native Michael Aja is getting an NBT-sponsored assist with out-of-state tuition while attending the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
  • Alyssa Biedenbender is a student at Moraine Park Technical College in Wisconsin where she’s learning all she can about the tool and die trade. Vanessa Guzman is chasing down a degree in engineering and mechanical design at Illinois’ Triton College. Francis Havlovic shares similar goals at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Jessica Kennedy is working toward a career in electrical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.
Miller Electric presents NBT with a $10,000 check at the 2018 golf outing. From left to right are Bruce Benedict, president of Production Tool Cutting Inc. and former chairman of NBT; Matt Fitzgerald, vice president of Miller Electric; Ed Youdell, CEO and president of FMA; and Ed Dernulc, director of NBT.

There’s more. Lots more. Thirty-five students received NBT scholarships for the Fall 2020 semester alone with similar educational support extending back to the foundation’s founding in 1990. In all, NBT has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to students, plus provided more than $1 million in grant funding to schools that host NBT summer manufacturing camps. By sponsoring hundreds of manufacturing camps and reaching thousands of young people across 37 states, NBT is raising awareness of the manufacturing trades and hopefully narrowing the country’s crushing skills gap.

Sponsoring success

Miller Electric Mfg. LLC plays a significant role in NBT’s manufacturing camp program. Segment director Jeff Schroeder serves as secretary and treasurer of the NBT board of directors. He explains that the foundation focuses much of its work on partnering

with two-year colleges and technical high schools, creating programs that introduce middle school-age and older students to manufacturing careers.

Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA), presents Bruce Albrecht, vice president of global innovation and technology at Miller Electric, with an award at the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs (NBT) gala. Albrecht is also a former board member of NBT.

“Most manufacturing companies find it extremely difficult to find people,” Schroeder says. “Here in Appleton, Wis., for example, we have perhaps 100 positions that we can’t fill right now, simply because there aren’t enough candidates. So, we as an industry

have to get more people interested in manufacturing and try to help them understand the breadth of technologies that are available and see that it’s a fantastic career path.”

Much of this effort goes toward working with technical colleges on curriculum development, supporting programs that boost enrollment such as NBT camps, then providing them with financial incentives to keep those programs active. And as mentioned, there has been significant investment in the students themselves with scholarships awarded biannually based on need and merit alike.

Legacy of excellence

Miller Electric is not alone. Trumpf, Amada, Mitsubishi Laser and Dassault Systèmes – these are just a few

Students at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend, Wis., graduate from the Toolin’ It summer manufacturing camp.

of the companies that recognize the importance of NBT. According to its 2019 annual report, the foundation received more than $1.5 million in donations from these and others in the manufacturing community, an increase of more than 50 percent compared to 2018 levels.

Of this amount, Miller Electric contributed $10,000 to support NBT summer manufacturing camps throughout Wisconsin. In the summer of 2019, NBT awarded a total of $246,500 in funding grants along with support materials to 125 community colleges and technical high schools offering summer camp experiences, with 2,752 students attending.

Watch the video to meet Michael Aja, a recent NBT scholarship winner.

Granted, the 2020 annual report might not look as rosy. “The pandemic has made the past year difficult,” Schroeder says. “Around half of the camps were canceled and the majority of those that were held in 2020 transitioned to a virtual format, so it’s definitely changed the way we interact with the students. That said, everyone is learning to adapt, and we will continue to evolve and deal with whatever challenges lie before us.”

For more information on NBT, visit the website, download the 2019 annual report and check out its first-ever NBT Program Impact Study, which offers additional information in regard to the positive effects the foundation’s efforts are having on the industry.

Miller Electric Mfg. LLC

Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs