Shawn Hagen, manufacturing engineer for FLOE International, Inc. in McGregor is logging some miles between FLOE and Aitkin High School (AHS) this year.
Instructor Erik Heimark is teaching Advanced Metals and Manufacturing in a well-equipped industrial arts shop at the school. Under the watchful eyes of Heimark and Technology Integrationist/Coordinator Jason Roos, seven students are using a previously underutilized computer numerical control (CNC) machine to create a real-life job experience for the students.
The students are making actual parts for FLOE, and learning such concepts as starting, using, maintaining and shutting down the machine. They are learning quality control as they manufacture parts that Hagen picks up from the school and takes back to the McGregor facility.
FLOE International manufactures yachts, boats, boat lifts, trailers and docks and currently employes a staff of 150 in two facilities located in McGregor and Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.
Benefits to FLOE include the opportunity to pique interest in high school students who might later choose careers in the trades and be available to be hired by FLOE or another manufacturer.
“A growing economy needs more qualified people entering the trades,” said Hagen. “A university education is good, but it’s not suitable for every student who graduates. The trades pay well, very well, and students need to see that there is a career opportunity here.”
Some of the positions trainees might fill at FLOE when they are qualified are drafting, engineering and welding. Other technical positions are also open from time to time and can be difficult to fill in Aitkin County. In addition to serving its own needs, FLOE sees this program as an opportunity to give back to the community and build a pool of future employees.
Real world experience gives students skills they can apply to future careers, but the experience also opens their eyes to potential career opportunities they might not otherwise consider.
“Local jobs that pay well benefit the economy of the entire county,” saiid Heimark. “This shop is equipped with printers, routers, sign cutters and other metal working equipment in addition to the CNC machine. There is so much potential here.”
FLOE and AHS hope to continue to expand the program in the future.