Many of today’s abandoned buildings were once home to thriving manufacturing companies, born out of the great American industrial revolution. Throughout the years, many of these companies have either moved their operations overseas to cut back on costs or simply gone out of business due to a lack of innovation, financial setbacks or employee shortages.
Today, thanks to rapid advancements in technology, manufacturing companies are thriving once again. However, with baby boomers leaving the workforce by the thousands, there’s still a desperate need for skilled workers to take their place.
How One School is Making a Big Impact
As the manufacturing employment gap continues to grow, one Colorado school district has taken matters into their own hands, turning a formerly abandoned middle school into a state-of-the-art woods manufacturing lab that offers students skills training in modern-day manufacturing.
It began in the fall of 2015, when the superintendent of Peyton School District in Colorado, hired Dean Mattson, a former professional cabinet maker and successful businessman to direct their wood manufacturing program.
Under Dean’s direction, Peyton Woods Manufacturing Program quickly gained momentum. Other schools in the area started taking notice of the program’s success, and within a year, it grew to include over 180 students from six different school districts.
One Great Idea Lead to Another
Due to the success of the Peyton Woods Manufacturing Program, Mattson, along with the Peyton and Widefield school districts joined forces with the woodworking industry in hopes of expanding the program’s reach and impact.
Their idea became a reality in 2016 with the purchase of a 46,000 square foot building in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that would serve as home to the industry’s first manufacturing learning lab.
The Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab (MiLL) is designed to create opportunities for high school and college age students as well as military and industry professionals, by providing them with advanced training and techniques in lean manufacturing.
“Everywhere I’ve traveled, visiting with industry partners around the country, they have voiced their concerns regarding how they are going to fill the vacant positions left by retiring baby boomers. It is obvious that the manufacturing industry needs a pool of trained workers. That’s why we started the MiLL.”
- Dean Mattson, President and Founder of the MiLL
Building a Better Future
The MiLL is making its mark on the woodworking industry by equipping future leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in today’s industrial workforce. However, the MiLL is about so much more than building a better future for the woodworking industry, it’s about helping students build a better future for themselves.
“Students of all ages are being exposed to the allure of our industry through access to state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies” explains Dean, “and students who have been trained on premier industry equipment, are prepared for higher-level jobs when they enter the workforce and are much more likely to remain in the industry for years to come.”
How the Industry is Getting Involved
When industry and education combine, both sides win. The MiLL attributes it’s success to the generous support and donations of over 40 industry partners who have provided the world-class machinery, tools and necessary supplies to support their mission of giving students the best manufacturing education possible.
To learn more about the MiLL, or how you can be a part of investing in the future leaders of the woodworking industry, visit themillco.org.