Hanover-area businesses are sponsoring the revival of a high school metals lab program to provide students hands-on learning opportunities and teach them basic job skills.
Led by Peter Sheppard, Chairman and CEO, R.H. Sheppard Co. Inc, a total of 10 businesses provided nearly $90,000 in donations and equipment to Hanover High School in support of the initiative nearly 20 years after the metals program was disbanded.
“I am a proponent of working with our schools to help teach young people job skills they need to succeed in life,” Sheppard said. “If we don’t teach them, they will come out of high school unprepared to be a part of the workforce and the next phase of their lives.”
The program is a well-rounded approach to hands-on and visual learning and includes machining technology, foundry and casting, welding, and sheet metal fabrication, according to Metals Lab Teacher Mark Williams. Studying these subjects requires students to use critical thinking, applied math and other non-classroom skills, Williams added.
“Participating in this program won’t necessarily ensure a student a job, but it will indicate that they have the knowledge to operate machinery and equipment, have practical experience and demonstrate skills employers are looking for in their employees,” Williams said.
Sheppard said the course emphasizes expectations within the workplace and also teaches students soft skills they need in the real world.
“The program is a discipline of teaching young people what is expected of them when they graduate from high school,” Sheppard said. “You have to be at work on time, you have to dress properly, you can’t have a momentarily lapse of concentration or bad things can happen to you.”
David Harnish, Career Counselor, Hanover High School, said about 100 of the 405-member student body signed up for the class in its first year.
“The program is about connecting the dots between what they learn in the lab, how that is applied to what they learn in the classroom and how it can be applied on the job,” Harnish said. “The school and businesses are interested in raising awareness with the students and my goal is to get them outside these walls and to show them the relevancy of what they are learning and what that means in the real world.”
Harnish noted the program would not have been restarted without the support of the business community.
“This was really a team effort, from the school board and our superintendent having the vision and commitment from the business community to provide the necessary resources to make this program a reality,” Harnish said. “Our business community really stepped up and is committed to the success of this program.”
Sheppard said participating businesses want students to realize their full potential while still in school.
“This is a tool to reach the kids,” Sheppard said. “In addition to taking the skills they learn in the lab and applying them in the classroom, this program will help build a sense of pride and accomplishment. Businesses need workers who take pride in their jobs and pride in themselves. They want employees who can walk into their business and say, ‘That’s a job I can do’.”
Jeff Geiman, Vice President & General Manager, McClarin Plastics, said his company has a long-standing tradition of supporting educational programs within the community.
“McClarin has always been supportive of the link between manufacturing, education and industry,” Geiman said. “Our desire is to be supportive of initiatives that help achieve that goal.”
By the end of the school year, the students will have built a metal tool box and a machinist vice as part of their work in the lab setting, according to Williams.