Acco Material Handling Solutions LLC, a manufacturer of material handling products, including overhead cranes and hoists, welcomed a delegation of students from nearby York County School of Technology (York Tech) to its York, Pennsylvania headquarters last month (November).
The visit, instigated by Lorin Cassidy Wolfe, president and CEO at Acco, saw 22 students participate in varied manufacturing-themed activities, all under an overarching “Gemba Day” concept. As Wolfe explained, genba, also known as gemba, is a Japanese term meaning “the actual place”. Japanese detectives call a crime scene gemba, for example, and journalists might say they’re reporting from gemba. In business, gemba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the gemba is the factory floor.
Scott Rogers, assistant administrative director at York Tech, said: “It is imperative to take student learning outside of the classroom, especially within Career and Technical Education [CTE]. Much of CTE is focused on acquiring new technical skills and being able to think critically through every step to complete a manufacturing product or job. One of the best ways to accomplish this objective is by having students experience the workplace first-hand. The students commented on how open and positive the entire Acco family was during their visit. Students were impressed that they were able to witness a live daily management meeting knowing that one day, it could be them providing a report and participating in problem solving decisions.”
Less than a mile separates York Tech and Acco but, as Wolfe said, there is a long way to go to reverse the trend that sees a workforce on the verge of retirement. “Like many industrial businesses, she explained, “we are competing for the young talent that is passionate about manufacturing and might consider a career with us. We have created a culture and work environment to attract that talent and our intent is to showcase it.”
Rogers responded: “York Tech was honored and excited to receive an invitation to visit such a professional company like Acco that has historical ties to York County. It was an excellent opportunity and rewarding experience for our students to see manufacturing in action and to gain a stronger appreciation of local manufacturing and the career opportunities that exist in our community.”
Wolfe continued: “It is extremely important to promote trades and skills that are relevant to the technology segment for the U.S. to compete in the global marketplace. These programs and the students that are committing to them are essential for the next generation of high performing businesses in the country.”
The York Tech students, who were joined by three school administrators, are all studying computer numerical control (CNC), the automated control of machining tools. Fittingly, one of many Acco employees that they had an opportunity to engage with during the day was Patrick Gallagher, a CNC operator. A varied career recently saw him ply his trade in a Harley Davidson machine shop where he was sponsored to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, before latterly joining Acco. Gallagher was part of the “CNC Through CEO” panel in the afternoon, which featured a welder, sales professionals, senior management, and Wolfe herself.
Rogers hailed Acco’s “amazing” team and cited access to employees as a standout feature of the day. “Acco made an investment in our students that has left an everlasting, positive impact on each of their futures,” he said. Joseph Lang, Grade 10, commented: “We were really impressed with the new management of the company and how focused they are on lean manufacturing. That is something that Mr. Jamison, our teacher, frequently references in our program.” Owen Bollinger, also Grade 10, said: “The horizontal machining center was very impressive. The size of the machine was so large; we did not know something like that existed,” while Lang went on to capture the spirit of the day: “I liked how they were interested in us and they sincerely wanted to share with us what they knew. They really cared about us as a future generation.”
Wolfe, a passionate advocate for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, believes that vocational technology programs and industry can combine to make a difference. She said: “We have seen a surge in funding and investment in STEM, and this will provide the U.S. with a sustainable competitive advantage by providing talent to contribute positively to the changing world. We will continue to proactively reach out and create relationships with programs we believe to be valuable not just to Acco but the greater community and industry. We support STEM fully and the students that will become the next leaders in technology.”
Rogers concluded: “There is a reason York Tech students from various STEM career and technical education programs have numerous job offers upon graduation. As these technical fields continue to change and grow, it is imperative that technical education programming is adapting and innovative to ensure we are preparing students for the professional positions that are available now and in the future.”
Acco has already reached out to York Tech’s welding and engineering programs with a view to hosting a similar event in the near future.