I was recently approached by a representative of Merrimack Valley - Workforce Investment Board about participation in their externship program – what is that? Upon further inquiry, I learned that MV WIB would be providing funding to inquisitive teachers interested in learning more about what goes on in the manufacturing workplace and bringing that awareness back to the classroom to students and provide them a 21st century jobs visibility. It certainly seemed like an interesting idea.
I faced a quandary – there is nothing that I do at CI Works managing a building that would be cool or interesting to students. Then it hit me – what our tenant companies do should be the focus. They make things, use available tooling, use off the shelf components and recycled materials, and make magic happen. Most owners that I connected with were more than happy to donate their time, open up their workplaces, and get a sense for how young students could be interested in and fit into their businesses. In the future, we hope to be able to expand externships to internships at CI Works, to bring students into these work environments as resources, and bring new techniques learned by these interns into manufacturing designs and processes used by these businesses.
I selected a cross section of companies to expose a variety of options – using old recycled wood to make attractive, functional, and decorative products, newly invented and developed electronic products that can help save the environment and change the world, and also how a metal roof can be transformed to not only protect a home – but also to insulate it, heat it, and provide electricity to it. But, it is critical NOW to not only make products, but also communicate their value in an economical way to a wide swath of potential customers. Tenant companies discussed how to create a visual, really cool, and purposeful web site, how using videos could communicate that value, capture attention, and maintain it to point of purchase, and finally, how to utilize social media as a platform to communicate that value equation to interested parties.
Last stop on day 2 which seemed right at the end of summer – how to brew craft beers. It seemed like a good way to cap off two busy and interesting days. I only hope that Genevieve Bleiler from Lawrence HS had half as much fun and learned as much as the business owners that met with her. We hope that Gen returns again in the future and brings some interns with her.
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