How soon are kids of today grasping a hammer for the first time?

By Jennifer Ferrero, APR, ACB, ALB

Technology for the next generation is a given. Kids of today are handed a cell phone or tablet to occupy their attention at a young age. They won’t know a world without these devices. However, once they grow up and enter the working world, technology may be an asset in today’s world, but won’t other skills be needed?

The future of construction and manufacturing and many other careers are dependent on people having a variety of hands-on skills.

Here are some trends in teaching kids to use tools that will enable them to build and make things at an early age.

Camps

Camps are not what they used to be. Today’s camps are very directed in their approach to learning. For example, in western Washington, there are a variety of camps put on by a company called iD Tech that would help students aged 7-17 to engage in future careers in manufacturing such as mechatronics, CNC machining, design and engineering, programming, coding and robotics.

Here’s a short list of some of their programs:

  • Coding and Engineering 101
  • 3D Printing and Modeling with Take-home printer
  • Coding and Development 101
  • Assemble, Invent and Code Your Laptop
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Roblox Entrepreneur
  • 3D Modeling and Autodesk

Camps are held at universities and other educational institutions and start at about $850+.

Makerspaces

Makerspaces are dotting the map from Seattle to Coeur d’Alene, ID. They offer an opportunity for people of all ages to work with equipment to create something. In some cases, people are recycling or upcycling materials to something new, or maybe they are using a 3D printer or laser printer to create a brand-new product or artwork.

The SoDo Makerspace in Seattle is one example. Their website says, Learn New Skills – We teach classes on product design, hardware electronics, sewing and fabrication so you can make or personalize your own stuff. Make Things
Get access to a workshop with equipment such as 3D printers, Laser Cutter/Engraver, Vinyl Cutter, CNC routers to produce your own products.”

Most Makerspaces offer memberships which range from day pricing to annual pricing to use the equipment and materials. It is a great way for kids to both burn off some energy and make something cool that will teach them skills.

Here’s a short list of makerspaces: 

Classroom Learning

Here’s a special story from the Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum (KTEC) in Kenosha, WI that may be an inspiration here in Washington! 

“KTEC is a strong believer that earlier and often is the best way to build students’ interest and skills in STEM and manufacturing. We are creating the tool curriculum in partnership with Snap-on Tools to fill the need to teach students tool identification, application, and safety. Through this program our students are exposed to possible careers and opportunities in manufacturing. They are also prepared to enter into high-school courses with a strong knowledge of the tools they will be using.

We have three pilot units written for the curriculum that will eventually be taught in kindergarten through grade eight. The K-1 lessons will be a software program. Starting in second grade our students will be learning hands-on. Our second-grade unit is on hammers and fasteners with the final project being a bird house. Third-grade students learn about screwdrivers, while fourth grade studies ratchets. All units have a focus on measurement and meet cross-curricular standards,” submitted by Kristen Kief, Media and Community Relations, kkief@kusd.edu 262-359-7133, Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum (KTEC).

Here’s a video that tells the story of this program. 

Scouting

The illustrious rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts of America is a top-seller for many job seekers. Now the Girl Scouts program has also released an STEM program for girls:

  • Engineering: Think Like an Engineer. Girls discover how to think like an engineer by participating in hands-on design challenges and completing a Take Action project.
  • Computer Science: Think Like a Programmer. Girls learn how programmers solve problems as they (girls) participate in interactive computational-thinking activities and complete a Take Action project.
  • Outdoor STEM: Think Like a Citizen Scientist. Girls practice the scientific method by undertaking a citizen science project. They make observations, collect data, and work with scientists who provide feedback on research and findings. Girls also complete a Take Action project.

There’s a reason why those who earn rank in scouting will be at the top of candidates competing for positions. Scouts are taught valuable skills from an early age.

Here are some of the industry-related merit badges awarded in Boy Scouts:

  • Aviation
  • Drafting
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Programming
  • Radio
  • Robotics
  • Signs, signals and codes
  • Space exploration

These are just a few of the skills developed in scouting programs. This is valuable to the workforce because it teaches discipline, organization, how to use tools (like chopping wood with an axe), perspective and awareness of surroundings. In a large manufacturing facility, the ability to navigate and understand your surroundings would be key at a base level!

Skills Centers

There are Skills Centers throughout the state of Washington that teach hands-on, career-based or career and technical education courses. Many of these are an extension of the typical high school day, and many also offer camps and outside experiences.

Here are some typical Skills Center courses (from a sampling of programs in Washington related to this industry):

  • Pre-engineering and design technology
  • Advanced engineering applications
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Robotics and advanced manufacturing
  • Welding technology
  • Automotive technology
  • Aerospace composites
  • Aerospace machining
  • Aeronatical science pathway
  • Aerospace manufacturing/engineering

For more information, go to Washington State Skills Centers.