Going with the FLOE: Students gain real-life job experience in manufacturing

Source: Lynn Mizner, Aitkin Independent Age

McGregor-based FLOE International is partnering with Aitkin High School to introduce students to manufacturing through a well-equipped industrial arts shop at the school.

Using a computer numerical control (CNC) machine, seven students are making real parts for FLOE to use in its manufacturing of yachts, boats, boat lifts, trailers, and docks, according to the Aitkin Independent Age.

The students are making actual parts for FLOE, and learning such concepts as starting, using, maintaining and shutting down the [CNC] machine. They are learning quality control as they manufacture parts that [Shawn] Hagen [manufacturing engineer for FLOE] picks up from the school and takes back to the McGregor facility.

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.”

Minnesota’s manufacturing industry comprises 14 percent of the state’s total GDP. The current demand for manufacturing workers makes building the workforce pipeline a key component of the industry’s future growth.

Through FLOE and Aitkin’s partnership, students learn technical skills that will propel them full speed ahead for a career in manufacturing. They also gain an awareness of a potential career path they may not have previously considered in a county desperate to build a pool of skilled employees.

“Local jobs that pay well benefit the economy of the entire county,” said 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.”