Dawn Monarca is only 17 but already knows how to operate high-tech manufacturing equipment to build robots and high-mileage vehicles.
Some of the equipment, donated by industry partners, have given High School District 214 students like Monarca opportunities to build their skills and enhance their knowledge in manufacturing and engineering.
“It’s really nice to know (organizations) are funding us so we can get real-world experiences,” said Monarca, “and so we can know what the field is like when we’re older and get jobs.”
With support from industry organizations and businesses, District 214’s manufacturing and engineering curriculum exposes students like Monarca to the latest trends and tools in the field, and increases their opportunities for success in internships and careers.
The charitable arm of the Technology & Manufacturing Association, or TMA, for example, has provided more than $120,000 over two decades to District 214 schools to help invest in students and their futures. TMA’s Education Foundation supports high school manufacturing training programs as one approach to addressing the shortage of skilled workers in the industry. A report from Deloitte found that the skills gap in manufacturing will leave 2 million jobs unfilled through 2025.
Over the years, TMA’s foundation has supported equipment in District 214 classrooms, including manual and CNC lathes, mills and 3D printers.
This year, TMA’s Education Foundation donated $14,500 to Rolling Meadows High School, funds that went to a CNC HAAS mini mill, an industry standard machine. And last year, the foundation donated just over $30,000 to pay for a milling machine and manual lathes at John Hersey, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling high schools.
“Without TMA’s support – both their expertise and generous donations of equipment – our District 214 programs would not be as successful,” said Dan Ludwigsen, Hersey’s career and technical education division head. “TMA is truly changing lives for the better by showing our students advanced manufacturing. This has opened up possibilities for our students that may not have been known in the past. When you visit District 214 schools and see what our classrooms have to offer, it is in large part due to the generosity of TMA.”
Pantelis Anton, a District 214 senior, said he’s thankful for the experiences he has had to better understand the manufacturing industry. As a student, he learned how to operate ShopBots, plasma cutters, manual and CNC mills, as well as lathes.
“We’re very fortunate to have these machines because even some companies don’t have them,” he said. “We’ll be ahead of the game, and I’m very thankful.”