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The Next ISO-Certified Manufacturer Could Be in a High School

Local firms increasingly partner with schools to give students a head start toward well-paying manufacturing careers, including Quality Management System training.

The old 4D description of manufacturing – “dirty, dark, dangerous and dead-end” – is on its way out as the next iteration of robotic, computer-controlled and AI-assisted machines and processes move in. Many middle and high-school students have yet to be exposed to the modern reality of an interesting and well-paying job in a hundred different kinds of manufacturing. But an increasing swell of industry-education partnerships is due to change that. Your company could be involved too, with benefits including being able to hire locally-based talent already trained in the basics and with skills beginning to bud.

Several decades back, ‘shop class’ made its exit from schools, partially because students thought they’d all be designing or testing video games; but in some ways, the CNC-machine world of manufacturing is just primed and waiting for this generation who grew up with phones in their hands. The challenge of understanding metal or plastic, or electronic components and their capabilities, can become as much fun as finding Zelda or the next level in their favorite adventure game.

How it’s working, and how you could get your ISO-certified company involved

A story in Industry Week magazine highlighted a high school in Indiana that blew right past “shop class” to create a multi-discipline manufacturing center in their school, supported by several local businesses. Those firms also order products made by the students, who are running the shop as a business. They’re already learning marketing, sales, design, quality improvement, and the manufacturing skills needed for employment.

Scott Dietz writes in Quality Digest that the local Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) in Pittsburgh PA “has three foundational STEM programs manufacturers can use to connect with students…in 60 school districts.” (“Four Ways that Engaging with Schools Benefits Your Talent Stream,” 8/30/22). The programs create videos about career opportunities in manufacturing, give experiential learning opportunities, and offer pre-apprenticeship programs teaching industry techniques and offering certifications to boot.

Northern Colorado

Not to be left out, our own Northern Colorado Manufacturing Partnership, at, has several different programs that are beginning to pay off with good jobs for students. Those programs involve local schools and include student tours of manufacturing plants, in-school presentations, and parents’ nights where the fun side of manufacturing is shown. Scholarships are available at several local trade schools, that don’t require a four-year degree, and they coordinate scholarships, grants and other aid to help students get started – often being able to start work at a manufacturer while still in school.

Paid summer internships for high school students, and many other resources, are also linked through the website. There is plenty more room for a company to get involved. The annual NOCOM trade show in Loveland, CO on Sept 28 will have much more detail and the people directly involved in these programs will tell you how you can get started.

BONUS OFFER: If your firm decides to contribute to the NOCO effort to show students how a career in manufacturing could benefit them, PQA Certification will kick in a free ISO 9001 training for those students and their mentors in your company.

And if you’ve been considering certification to ISO 9001 or another ISO standard, please contact us – it could be less expensive than you think!


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