Initiative aims to rebuild image of manufacturing

Initiative aims to rebuild image of manufacturing

Announcement coming Wednesday for project that will launch in Georgia schools

By Kristen Oliver, Gainsville Times

All of Georgia’s 932 public middle and high schools will soon be the first schools to join a national initiative encouraging careers in manufacturing.

Gov. Nathan Deal and celebrity, actor and entrepreneur John Ratzenberger will announce Wednesday the statewide implementation of the National Educational Initiative, designed to redefine the image associated with jobs in manufacturing and to reinforce the importance of the field.

Ratzenberger is best known for his role on the television show “Cheers,” but more recently for producing and hosting the television show “Made in America,” which highlights American careers in manufacturing.

The Georgia Department of Education and Board of Education both endorsed the initiative and its use of science, technology, engineering and math content.

Wanda Creel, Gainesville City Schools superintendent, said the Gainesville school district already encourages students in the STEM fields and offers opportunities for students in manufacturing, including courses in construction, carpentry and masonry.

“We have a person at the district level that is dedicated to helping us pursue not only STEM, but STEAM, which is science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics,” Creel said. “And many of our schools have an emphasis on STEM. For example, Gainesville Exploration Academy has a STEM lab.”

The district is also putting an emphasis on professional learning opportunities for teachers to help them incorporate these fields in the classroom.

Will Schofield, Hall County School District superintendent, said the county schools have helped students to numerous internships in manufacturing. The district has STEM charter and magnet schools starting at the elementary level and programs through the high school level. It offers International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses in the fields and has additional opportunities for students including robotics and engineering clubs.

“The best thing you can do to support STEM careers is to offer the most rigorous academic coursework in those areas available to children, and we certainly feel like we’ve done that,” Schofield said. “… Certainly what the governor is saying is very consistent with what we’ve tried to do with our children here locally.”

The National Educational Initiative is launching for the first time in Georgia, but may eventually be implemented in all 50 states. The launch in Georgia will reach more than 500,000 students annually.

“One of the most critical issues confronting Georgia manufacturers today is the shallow pool of work-ready talent interested in and capable of embarking on well-paying careers in manufacturing,” said Roy Bowen, president of the Georgia Association of Manufacturers, in a press release Monday. “Achieving success with this endeavor is absolutely essential to ensuring the long term viability of Georgia’s manufacturers and for Georgia to maintain its distinction as the No. 1 state in the U.S. for business.”