Create a Manufacturing Camp at Your School
Cutting through red tape in educational systems can be a monumental task. I found it to be an interesting challenge in achieving the initiatives that I have championed at Fox Valley Technical College. The people at the school are very passionate about what they do and usually have the best interest of the students in mind. Often, succeeding at an endeavor like this means relying on relationships you have already established. Contacts within the educational system can assist you in working through the processes that must be completed to get the intended results. Here are my suggestions for the top ten ways to accomplish your goal:
Be passionate about your manufacturing camp idea.
You certainly had an idea that sparked your interest in getting a camp program going in the first place. Stay close to the idea, keep your eyes on the goal, and continue to build the momentum. Excitement tends to build excitement.
Present data to support your goals.
Think about the ‘why’ in what you are planning to build. Why is a camp important to your school and students? What outcomes do you expect? Do some research on the topic and when you find supporting data, document it. Be ready to present it to administrators and staff.
Reach out to your connections within the organization.
Your connections within the organization are your best supporters. It could be your colleagues, your boss, or a manager from another area. Have lunch with them or schedule an informal meeting. Share your concept, and ask for some feedback and advice. Be humble.
Trust your instincts.
To support the passionate part of this and keep the project on track, trust your instincts. If something feels right, move forward. If something seems to be going down an uncomfortable road, turn in another direction. Yes, this project could be something new, but everyone has instincts to guide them when they are not sure which path to take.
Engage industry partners early on.
Reach out to business and industry people that you know. Start locally as they will have the closest connection to your school. In my case, I reached out to my former employer first. Next, I reached out to our program advisory committee. This is a group of local employer representatives who we meet with annually to discuss the state of the academic program and solicit suggestions.
Reach out to other educators for guidance and support.
See what other educators are doing, even if they work for ‘competing’ schools. Post questions on social media and ask for input from educators. I started by calling a local high school technical education teacher when the concept of a summer camp came to my attention; I asked his opinion on what we could build, appropriate content for middle school students, and much more. We ended up developing and running the camp together for a few years. Creating a partnership like that was beneficial to the college and helped me gain support in a big way.
Be honest with everyone.
Do not try to sell the concept like a salesperson. Instead, treat it like an opportunity that you need some help with. Help others understand that you are prepared to do the hard work — you just need their insight and expertise to create a great experience for the students. Keeping that “student focus” will also resonate with many at your school. If you are reaching out to other academic departments for assistance, let them know that the students attending the camp will have a chance to see their program area as well.
If you plan to run a manufacturing camp, have things in order by the end of summer in the prior year, or before. Have enough of the logistics worked out so that you can confirm the dates, the instructors and others associated with the camp, the schedule, plant tours, etc. Once the school year starts, people focus on the semesters in front of them and your plans will likely take a lower priority. The further out you can plan the experience, the more comfortable people will be in helping with the project and sharing their expertise.
Plot out the details as much as possible.
Plan, plan, plan. Every detail will need to be sorted out if your camp is to run smoothly. A well-run camp will gain a lot of support for the future. Work out a daily schedule, perhaps using Microsoft Project or some other type of project planning software. It helps to keep things moving in the right direction. It also helps people understand your timeline and some of the urgencies that they may not have considered.
Address the WIIFM with each potential partner/supporter.
When it comes to projects like this that need a lot of people involved to make them successful, ‘What’s in it for me?’ is the biggest unasked question. This goes back to my earlier point, which states that research and data are vital. If you can show how your project will bring recognition and/or support to your school, getting their buy-in is going to be easier. Be sure to ask others to share what they see as the potential benefits of your project.