Machine trades students compete in challenge while potential employers take note

Huntington North High School’s Tyler Spoonamore (right) looks on as John Milledge operates a lathe.
Huntington North High School’s Tyler Spoonamore (right) looks on as John Milledge operates a lathe. Photo by Andre B. Laird.

Many people believe that outsourcing has decimated the manufacturing industry and that jobs are hard to find.
The students enrolled in the Huntington North High School machine trades program would say otherwise.

On Friday, April 26, Huntington North and South Adams High School teamed up for the second annual Northeast Indiana High School Machining Challenge - and representatives of 18 area employers showed up to scout for potential recruits.

Mick Jarrett, head of Huntington North's program, says the competition was developed to draw the interest of potential employers.

"We have competed against South Adams many times at different competitions, so we know they have a very good program," he says. "One thing that was lacking, however, at the competitions was access to the contestants by potential employers."

Jarrett adds that the challenge was designed to create an environment where the students could not just compete against each other, but work together as well, providing employers with an up-close look at their craftsmanship.

"We have 16 contestants split into four-man teams, two from each school," he says. "They are matched up by skill level and given a project to complete, one that they don't know about until the day of the contest."

He adds that contestants are given 10 minutes to brainstorm and decide which portion of the project each member of the team will be responsible for. At the end of the allotted time for the contest, each team must have four copies of each project, one for each member.

The reason for having members from both schools on the same team are two-fold, Jarrett says.

"Each school has some equipment that is different and it evens the playing field when you have someone who knows how to use the equipment," he says.

"It was the same last year, when the challenge was held at South Adams."

He adds that by placing people unfamiliar with each other together, it simulates the workplace and employers get to see the students at work.

"In all, approximately 18 local and out-of-town companies showed up to view the students in action," Jarrett says. "They get the chance to talk to them and the students get a feel for the interview process."

Pat Scheer, fabrication supervisor at Shuttleworth in Huntington, was on hand to view the competition.

"The machine trade program and Shuttleworth already have an ongoing partnership," Scheer says. "We have hired students here for part time and full time work."

Scheer says that as an employer, he was on hand to see if the students were good workers and understood the equipment they were using.

Richard Taylor Jr., human resource and Safety director of Delaware Dynamics, traveled from Muncie to interview students during the competition.

"There is a big misconception that manufacturing is dead in America," Taylor says. "But that mostly applies to the line work, push-a-button-type jobs. The machine trades industry is still alive and thriving."

Taylor adds that because of the misconception, there are a lot more jobs than qualified applicants.

"If a student wants to do, say for example, CNC, that's a rare commodity," he notes. "That student will have multiple job offers after they graduate with the opportunity to make good money."

He adds that Indiana remains in the top percentile of states in the industry and that there is lots of room for growth and advancement.

South Adams machine trades instructor Jerod Dailey says partnering with Huntington North makes a lot of sense.

"We see them (HNHS) in competition all the time and know that they have a very good program," Dailey says. "We know that on competition day, Huntington North is one of those top schools that we will have to be our best to beat."

He adds that with the mutual respect the programs have for each other, they wanted to create a team atmosphere - something a bit different from regular competition.

"We also wanted to create a stage where the employers could see the students working together, side by side," says Dailey. "This is what it looks like in the real world, so why not give them a taste now?"

Jarrett says the teamwork aspect of the program has its benefits as well.

"The way the teams are organized, students get to use their leadership skills as you can see some step up to lead the projects," he says. "The employers also get to see the students display the leadership skills and potentially offer opportunities for them to work at their company."

Companies represented at the NEI High School Machining Challenge were Bad-Dad, Future Manufacturing, Pontius Roller & Machine, Micropulse Inc., Huntington Screw Machine, K-K Tool & Design, Miami Tool & Die, Economy Machine Products, Micromatic, Delaware Dynamics, PHD Inc., Memcor Inc., Specialty Engineering Inc., Intri-Cut Tool, Shuttleworth Inc., Powell Tool Supply, Toledo Steel, Metalcraft LLC, Foil Die International, Vincennes University, Ivy Tech and Zimmer.

Complete caption: Huntington North High School’s Tyler Spoonamore (right) looks on as John Milledge operates a lathe. Huntington North hosted the second annual Northeast Indiana High School Machining Challenge on Friday, April 26. The competition is a joint partnership between HNHS and South Adams High School, designed to give potential employers an advance look at the students.