CAMA on workforce, part 4: Cultivating the next generation

By Tim Heaton | Apr 05, 2016

When it comes to the manufacturing workforce, CAMA is talking the talk and walking the walk.

The first three articles in this four-part series on workforce development have focused on actionable opportunities for manufacturers to build their talent pipelines and narrow their skills gaps. This final article addresses what CAMA is doing to cultivate a future generation of manufacturing employees.

Rebranding Videos

According to conventional wisdom, globalization has critically weakened the American manufacturing industry as jobs have shipped overseas. CAMA's Creators video tells the more complete, nuanced story. As a result of global competition, today's American manufacturing operations are leaner, more automated, and more productive. The video helps rebrand the industry by depicting the cleanliness, safety, and high-tech nature of 21st-century American manufacturing.

A forthcoming video will be geared towards the middle school and high school audience. It will introduce students to the compelling opportunities offered by Colorado's manufacturing industry. This video is set to release on April 19 2016, so make sure to stay tuned. (The video will also be posted in our comment section on April 19.)

Youth Focus

Admittedly, it takes an active imagination to see the makings of a future machinist or logistics analyst in a fifth grader. So why is CAMA committed to working with K-8 students? Quite simply, early exposure to the gratification of building things and working with one's hands is an important foundation for a career in manufacturing. The Cardboard Challenge and the Gates/CAMA 8th Grade Manufacturing Day program were created with this idea in mind.

The Cardboard Challenge is a way for students to express their creativity. K-5 students are challenged to create and build whatever they please by only using cardboard, recycled materials, and their imaginations. Students are also awarded prize money donated by CAMA Manufacturing Members for the most creative and innovative projects.

CAMA, in partnership with Gates Corporation, will launch its first program targeted specifically for middle school students on April 13. Built around the concept of Young AmeriTowne, this program exposes eighth graders to the major elements of manufacturing. In this program, students are organized as individual companies made up of Design Engineers, Marketing, Finance, Production and Purchasing Managers to compete for a contract to build a Mars Rover from Legos.

CAMA is not only focused on the youth, but also their teachers. CAMA created a separate membership category and found a financial partner (Pinnacol )to underwrite the membership of High School CTE instructors. As full CAMA Members, these CTE instructors are allowed to participate in all CAMA events, providing them the opportunity to meet manufacturers on a regular basis to stay in sync with the ever changing needs of the manufacturers. On April 12, CAMA will host, with the State CTE office, the spring 2016 Manufacturing CTE Summit. This event gathers manufacturers and career and technical educators to discuss curriculum that will build a world-class talent pipeline here in our own state.

CAMA is dedicated to creating a robust connection between manufacturing companies and young people. Join in this effort by organizing a facility tour, hosting an intern, hiring an apprentice, or utilizing the Skillful jobs platform.

Tim Heaton is president of CAMA. Reach Tim at