resources in technology and engineering
36 technology and engineering teacher December/January 2018
Workforce development has become a key issue for manu-
facturers across the United States. According to Deloitte's
2015 Skills Gap Report, manufacturers are not maintaining
the workers they need because of factors including, but not
limited to, lack of interest in manufacturing careers, short-
age of qualified new talent, and retirements in their aging
workforce. Additionally, evidence has indicated that students
leaving high school lack the employability and technical
skills needed to be eective contributors to the manufactur-
ing workforce and regional economic ecosystem (Adecco,
2014). To address these concerns, the authors, with support
from the Indiana Next Generation Manufacturing Competi-
tiveness Center, launched the Improving Regional Manufac-
turing Ecosystems (IRME) project, which seeks to advance
the next generation manufacturing workforce through high
school engineering/technology (ET) programs. The general
focus of the project is to build relationships between indus-
try, education, and the surrounding communities to better
meet the needs of the local manufacturing ecosystem by
gathering/analyzing data to identify regional workforce is-
sues and develop industry-driven design projects that strive
to cultivate the technical and employability skills for the next
generation workforce. As a result, this article aims to share
the IRME project framework as a resource for ET teachers
to engage with regional industries and provide an accurate
depiction of manufacturing in class-
rooms, spread awareness of career
opportunities in advanced manu-
facturing, and help cultivate student
skills that translate to the school’s
local manufacturing ecosystem.
developing authentic industry-driven design projects
Greg J. Strimel
Figure 3. Students drilling holes for mason bee habitat.
Wooden fish puzzle.
Photo credit: author.
Implementation of an industry-driven design project can expose
students to their local manufacturing ecosystem, creating a natural
connection between local industries and potential future employees.
December/January 2018 technology and engineering teacher 37
Therefore, the authors will provide a rationale for connecting with
local manufacturing industries, an overview of the IRME process
to identify the needs of local industry and develop authentic, in-
dustry-driven design projects, and an example design project and
lesson developed following the IRME process. As Strimel (2014)
states, authenticity is important for developing any type of trans-
disciplinary STEM lesson or design project, as it provides students
the opportunity to learn from performing tasks that have purpose,
are genuine, and have meaning to them and their community.
Why Connecting with Local Industry Can Be
A major goal of education is often thought of as preparing young
people to be productive members of society. This goal can
include developing a high-performance economy by cultivat-
ing student skills needed to succeed in the high-performance
workplace (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary
Skills, 1991). However, recent skill gap concerns point toward the
manufacturing sector, one of the largest drivers of our economy,
as not being satisfied by schools, as few students are interested
or qualified to meet the projected workforce needs (Adecco,
2014; Deloitte, 2015). According to a 2015 Adecco survey of 500
U.S. business leaders, 92% of those surveyed believe Ameri-
can workers are not as skilled as they need to be to support
manufacturing operations. Soft skills, such as communication,
creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration are identified as the
largest area of concern (44%), followed by technical skills (22%),
leadership skills (14%), and software aptitude (12%). Additionally,
business leaders indicated one of their most pressing concerns
is the manufacturing industry, where unqualified prospective
employees increase training needs and raise company costs.
Fifty-nine percent of those leaders thought the education system
was responsible for the highlighted skills gap.
In addition to the perceived widening skills gap, another national
concern is that students are facing increasing university tu-
itions, higher student loan debt, more competition as they enter
the workforce, and lower earnings than previous generations.
However, a 2017 report by the Georgetown University Center
on Education and the Workforce has revealed there are still 30
million “good” jobs that do not require a Bachelor’s degree and
pay an average of $55,000 per year. While the shift away from a
manufacturing-based economy has left many blue-collar work-
ers behind, manufacturing industries still hold the majority of
“good” jobs that pay well and do not require a Bachelor’s degree
(Carnevale et al., 2017). Historically, high school graduates could
leave school and obtain a “good” paying job in a local industry.
But as the Center on Education and the Workforce (2017) report
indicates, “good” jobs that pay well in manufacturing will increas-
ingly require more postsecondary education and training than
in the past in an eort to meet competitive requirements and to
fully exploit advancing technologies. Therefore, the number of
“good” jobs has shifted from only requiring high school diplomas
to desiring Associates' degrees, which still generally require a
lower monetary investment than a Bachelor’s degree. Neverthe-
less, as the authors engaged with local companies, they found
employment opportunities in manufacturing for students leaving
high school that also provide benefits such as tuition reimburse-
ment toward training and postsecondary education. This high-
lighted a potential career trajectory for students that reduces the
debt often tied to pursuing postsecondary education.
Regardless of one’s perspective of education and workforce
development, the path to “good” employment and the needs of
industries are continuously changing, while public perceptions/
awareness of careers can be diicult to transform. Therefore, it
becomes important to match education with the demands of
new “good” job pathways by connecting with local employers.
Through the IRME project, it became apparent that associates
within workforce development departments wanted to focus on
growing talent, rather than buying it. This concept means that as-
sociates believe the company’s best interest is to invest in young,
local, prospective employees, rather than relying on paying to
bring in external talent. This strategy relies on building a direct
workforce pipeline to minimize costs by reducing training time.
For example, manufacturing companies across all 92 counties in
Indiana have increased the priority for K-12 and postsecondary
educators to raise the level of academic performance required for
advanced manufacturing careers that are demanding enhanced
technology and technical skills. Therefore, developing local con-
nections between ET programs and industry can allow students
to see the direct impact the manufacturing ecosystem has on
their lives and can allow teachers to work with manufacturers to
identify and address regional workforce needs.
Developing Authentic Regional, Industry-
Driven Design Projects
The IRME project was initially developed to provide preservice
ET teachers with an experience working with local industries
prior to their student teaching experiences. The preservice teach-
ers are provided a procedure to conduct research with a local
profile company to identify a workforce need/issue and develop
an industry-driven, education-related solution for addressing
the identified need/issue. Thus, the outcome of the project is to
provide a series of educational solutions for improving regional
manufacturing ecosystems and provide preservice teachers
knowledge of manufacturing industries to inform their future
instruction as ET teachers. While the process for developing
these educational solutions was created for preservice teachers,
the authors believe the procedure can be valuable for inservice
teachers as well. Therefore, the IRME process for developing au-
thentic, industry-driven design projects is provided in Table 1, and
a sample educational initiative developed through this procedure
is discussed in the subsequent section.
resources in technology and engineering
38 technology and engineering teacher December/January 2018
resources in technology and engineering
An Example Regional, Industry-Driven
Following the process provided in this article, a preservice
teacher immersed himself within a local profile manufacturing
company to collect data and identify a specific workforce need.
The individual first made contact with the company’s training
and development department and conducted initial interviews
with associates to identify issues and trends regarding their
workforce. Through these discussions, it was identified that a
shortage of qualified associates in the area of welding could
potentially impact their ability to continue to produce quality
products at an increasing rate in the future. This demonstrated a
practical, immediate, and local workforce challenge. A challenge
that seemingly aligns with the national concerns, often highlight-
ed by organizations such as the Mike Rowe Works Foundation
(2017), of a widening skills gap, unfilled technical manufacturing
jobs, and the remaining belief that a four-year degree is the best
path for all people. However, to better understand the identified
workforce challenge and frame the problem in a solvable way,
the preservice teacher conducted further interviews with welding
associates and participated in the company’s welding training
Through these investigations, the preservice teacher was able
to determine the specific technical competencies required of
employees, equipment parameters, proper techniques, and safe
practices to integrate into a classroom design project. For ex-
ample, there are five specific welds that a prospective employee
must perform to a designated standard before being hired. Ad-
ditionally, the prospective employees must complete these welds
in four required positions found in an authentic manufacturing
setting. Figures 1 through 3 illustrate the welds that prospective
employees must complete.
While these skills themselves can be important, it also became
evident that these specific welding tasks provide numerous
connections to engineering and science concepts and practices
Table 1. Procedure for Developing Authentic Regional, Industry-Driven Design Projects
1. Locate a profile company. Identify a profile company within the local manufacturing ecosystem that is willing to engage with schools
and provide training opportunities. The company will represent the customer throughout this development process, meaning the edu-
cational solution should be created in tandem with the company to address one of their identified needs (assuming that need is also
beneficial to students).
2. Contact relevant stakeholders. Before reaching out to company stakeholders, it is important to develop an understanding of the
workforce and educational challenges in the region. Armed with this knowledge, one can then contact those vested in addressing the
regional challenges and request a meeting with the company’s workforce development and training department. The purpose of the
meeting is to conduct initial interviews with associates to identify issues and trends regarding their workforce and training.
3. Conduct use-inspired research. Carry out interviews with the profile company’s associates to identify issues and trends regarding
their workforce and training. Take advantage of the company’s existing training programs to gather pertinent information related to
workforce development to identify opportunities for improvement, as well as better understand the profile company. Explore the com-
pany’s current workforce development solutions and observe their pedagogical strategies to document the desired outcomes of the
various training programs. Lastly, question employees directly about workforce issues, as they are closest to the various problems and
can provide valuable feedback and solution ideas. Be sure to record project ideas during all phases of research and collect any training
documentation, as they will be helpful later when deciding on a direction.
4. Use findings to frame the problem. Problem framing involves developing criteria for success and identifying educational constraints.
This process requires general knowledge about the skills gap and the local community’s educational system, as well as more specific
knowledge on the profile company’s problem and the equipment needed to solve it. The problem should be phased in a succinct
problem statement detailing the who, what, where, and when associated with the identified problem. The vision for short-term and
long-term impact/success should also be detailed.
5. Develop an educational solution. Using the findings and training materials gathered during research, align potential solution out-
comes with the appropriate STEM concepts and standards. Analyze and evaluate the potential design project ideas generated during
the data-gathering process, share the ideas with the relevant stakeholders to gather feedback from the customer, and work with the
profile company to select a solution idea that addresses the framed problem. Once a solution is chosen, identify what success looks
like for each stakeholder and check that the design project aligns with the objectives of the ET program and the profile company’s
identified need. This should include both short-term and long-term goals focusing on immediate, tangible deliverables for industry, as
well as building on a foundation of knowledge for education and industry alike. One way to clearly define success for students is to
create a design brief that includes an authentic client, problem statement, and the criteria for success. Lastly, determine what resourc-
es (i.e., funds or donated equipment/materials) can be provided to the school from the profile company to support the implementation
of the developed solution.
6. Implement design project and collect data. Data gathered during the implementation of the developed educational solution can
be used to check for success as well as provide rationale to justify the continuation of the design project and requests for additional
resources from the profile company.
7. Reflect with industry stakeholders. Did the project meet the criteria for success? Why or why not? Gather feedback from the profile
company and reflect on the strong points of the project, as well as the challenges.
8. Reiterate. Use the feedback to refine the project for future iterations and request additional support from the profile company.
December/January 2018 technology and engineering teacher 39
resources in technology and engineering
Figure 1. A fillet weld on a T-Joint must be
completed by prospective employees at three
positions; overhead, horizontal, and vertical
downward. Image credit: Creative Com-
Figure 2. Flat butt joint is a gap weld that
fuses two horizontal pieces with a predeter-
mined gap. Image credit: Author.
Figure 3. Lap joint welds bond two pieces
of metal in which the edges or ends are
overlapped. Image credit: Creative Com-
(e.g., material properties, quality control, stress/strain, fatigue,
changes in states, electricity, chemical reactions, centroids, etc.).
Understanding these connections enabled the development of a
class design project that integrates necessary ET course content
with authentic technical skills related directly to a local industry.
In doing so, students who are unsure of a future career direc-
tion can be introduced to potential local manufacturing career
options and provided the skills necessary for such jobs without
much training. This career awareness can oer a pathway for stu-
dents to obtain gainful employment after high school and acquire
tuition reimbursement benefits to pursue higher education if they
decide to do so—thus reducing and possibly eliminating mas-
sive amounts of college debt. However, if a student does plan to
pursue a degree in engineering or engineering technology, the
project still provides them with technical skills that will help to
inform their work in the future. For example, the profile company
also provides welding training to all new engineers and technolo-
gists to ensure they can make proper decisions when designing
new products, systems, and processes in their organization.
After the preservice teacher completed the industry research,
the scope of the classroom project was defined. This scope
consisted of two overarching industry-related outcomes beyond
the typical classroom learning objectives: (1) cultivate student
employability and technical skills to prepare them for the regional
manufacturing ecosystem and (2) improve student awareness/
perceptions of career options in local manufacturing industries.
Table 2 provides the design project lesson overview, rationale for
the overall scope of the project, the specific objectives, and the
Using the collected information, a design project was developed
and framed within the engineering design-based lesson plan
format presented by Grubbs and Strimel (2015) (Table 3). The
lesson first engages students by touring local manufacturing
companies to introduce them to the field of advanced manufac-
turing, local job opportunities, and potential career trajectories
after high school or college. From there, students will explore
welding, focusing on common practices (using gingerbread and
icing to simulate dierent weld types or virtual welding train-
ing equipment) and understanding the need for welders within
the manufacturing ecosystem. Once students understand what
welders do, they will learn how welding is used throughout
the manufacturing process, as well as the scientific principles
involved with welding. The students will then receive the devel-
oped design brief (provided in Table 4) that outlines the profile
company’s need. Student-led design teams will work to complete
the challenge, and will be evaluated at completion by an industry
stakeholder. The evaluation will be based on meeting established
criteria while staying within constraints, technical ability, and
demonstrated soft skills like creativity and the ability to commu-
nicate an idea.
The procedure and example design project presented in this
article demonstrate the way in which industry and ET educators
can work together to cultivate local talent, establish a sustainable
pipeline of qualified manufacturing employees, and address the
widening skills gap in the U.S. While focused on meeting specific
industry needs, this experience will provide students with an au-
thentic learning experience that can help foster both the techni-
40 technology and engineering teacher December/January 2018
cal and soft skills that will transfer to any potential manufacturing
job. Moreover, the implementation of an industry-driven design
project can expose students to their local manufacturing ecosys-
tem, creating a natural connection between local industries and
potential future employees.
Adecco (2014). Mind the skills gap. Retrieved from http://pages.
Carnevale, A. P., Strohl, J., Ban, C., & Ridley, N. (2017). Good jobs
that pay without a BA. Washington, DC: Georgetown Univer-
sity Center on Education and the Workforce.
resources in technology and engineering
Table 2. Project Overview
Lesson Purpose Cultivating high school students’ understanding of the impact of their local manufacturing ecosystem, awareness
of regional career options in manufacturing, and employability and technical skills to better prepare them for local
STEM Standards Standards for Technological Literacy:
3. Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections
between technology and other fields of study.
◦ Benchmark 3F: Knowledge gained from other fields of study has a direct eect on the development of tech-
nological products and systems.
12. Students will develop the abilities to use and maintain technological products and systems.
◦ Benchmark 12L: Document processes and procedures and communicate them to dierent audiences using
appropriate oral and written techniques.
19. Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use manufacturing technologies.
◦ Benchmark 19Q: Chemical technologies provide a means for humans to alter or modify materials and to
produce chemical products.
Global or Local
Addressing the looming manufacturing skills gap. Because of the abundance of cheap labor found around the world,
industries are looking for ways to stay competitive in a dynamic economic ecosystem. As the nation shifts toward a
service economy, there is a rapidly developing need for hard-working, skilled manufacturing employees. In order to
limit outsourcing and downsizing, manufacturing industries need to be competitive in the global market. The skills
gap can be seen on a national level as well as in individual communities. Like the profile company, other local manu-
facturers are not able to replace the employees that will leave, creating a shortage in labor, which aects product
quality and eiciency.
Project Objectives At the conclusion of this lesson students will be able to:
• Demonstrate the technical ability to complete the specific types of welds found in an industry setting.
• Explain the scientific and engineering principles of welding.
• Describe the impact of regional manufacturing ecosystems on their local economy.
• Identify manufacturing career opportunities within their community.
Driving Question What are the opportunities in and skills necessary for advanced manufacturing in my local community?
Materials • Welding Exploration
◦ Gingerbread – Icing – Icing dispensers (Practice Types of Welds)
◦ Virtual Welding Trainers (Example: Lincoln Electric VRTEX® Engage™ Welding Education Solution
found at www.lincolnelectric.com/en-gb/equipment/training-equipment/vrtex360/Pages/
• Weld Training
◦ Lincoln Electric MIG Welding Power Source/Wire Feeder/Whip
◦ Wire: ER70S-X .045” diameter
◦ Carbon Steel test plates: 12”x¼”
◦ Wire clippers
◦ Personal Protective Equipment
Deloitte. (2015). The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing 2015 and be-
yond. Washington, DC: Deloitte Development LLC. Retrieved
from www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/ ~/media/827DBC
Grubbs, M. & Strimel, G. (2015). Engineering design: The great
integrator. Journal of STEM Teacher Education, 50(1), 77-90.
Mike Rowe Works Foundation. (2017). Profoundly disconnected.
Retrieved from http://profoundlydisconnected.com/
Strimel, G. (2014). Authentic education by providing a situation
for student-selected problem-based learning. Technology
and Engineering Teacher, 73(7), 8-18.
The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills.
(1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for
America 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.
December/January 2018 technology and engineering teacher 41
resources in technology and engineering
Table 3. Project Lesson Plan
Engage: Industry visit and introduction to the local manufacturing ecosystems. Students will learn about the career opportunities in
manufacturing, while interacting directly with the local manufacturing ecosystem. College may not be the most prudent next step for all stu-
dents, so the engagement can provide awareness of potential benefits such as pay, healthcare, 401k, and tuition reimbursement associated
with manufacturing careers.
Explore: Focus on a featured profession in manufacturing (welding). Students will explore the profile company’s five dierent required
welds by using gingerbread cookies and icing to practice each weld. If the resources are available, virtual welders can also be used to
engage students without the safety concerns or need for real welding equipment.
Explain: Science of Welding. The teacher will cover the history, applications, and practice of welding. This includes safety, common prac-
tices, and quality assurance strategies. The science of welding oers a practical demonstration of concepts found in chemistry and physics.
In chemistry, welding illustrates concepts regarding material properties, fusion, and the changing state of matter. For physics, welding oers
a scientific inquiry opportunity to cover diicult mathematical concepts through stress testing, as well as the electrical principles that allow
welding to work.
Examples of driving questions for inquiry:
• What is the purpose of the shielding gas?
◦ Shielding gas prevents the metal from oxidizing.
• Why do dierent materials require dierent settings?
◦ Heat transfer, conductivity, and malleability dictate the settings.
• How does Ohm’s Law apply to welding?
◦ MIG welding uses an electrical arc to superheat the metal. This is why it necessary to ground the work in order to weld the metal.
Ohm’s Law can be used to illustrate the eects of changing the amperage and feed rate.
• How is welding dierent than adhesive?
◦ Fusion melts the material, changing the structure on a micro-level and creating a stronger bond than the original 2 base materials.
Engineer: Teacher will introduce industry-driven kinetic art design project. (See Design Brief in Table 4)
Evaluate: A master weld technician will evaluate all of the student designs as each team presents kinetic art pieces in a gallery walk. Stu-
dents will answer questions and defend their design, giving the teacher an opportunity to evaluate the soft skills used during the project.
Table 4. Design Brief
Design Brief: Kinetic Art Commission
The [profile company] wants to make an investment in high school
education and has commissioned this class for a project. Identifying
a shortage in welders, it has created a design challenge that incor-
porates the same skills it looks for in potential associates. Students
must work in teams to design and create an original piece of kinetic
art. Kinetic art utilizes outside forces to create movement. The de-
sign will incorporate the welds that associates must demonstrate to
be hired as welders. The company plans to select one team’s design
and use it for public relations and community engagement. Designs
must meet the criteria for success found below, and will be evalu-
ated on weld quality, creativity, functionality, and aesthetic appeal.
Criteria for Success:
• Observable movement
• Power derived from an outside force (wind, water, sun)
• Incorporates Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, and Aluminum
• Aligns to detailed design plans developed using the appropri-
ate industry-standard conventions
• Incorporated the following welds:
William H. Walls is an undergraduate re-
searcher in the Engineering/Technology
Teacher Education program in the Purdue
Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg J. Strimel, Ph.D., is an assistant pro-
fessor of Engineering/Technology Teacher
Education in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute at
Purdue University. He is also a project coordi-
nator for the Advancing Excellence in P-12 Engi-
neering Education project. He can be reached
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
◦ Horizontal Fillet
◦ Lap Joint
◦ Butt Joint
◦ Overhead Fillet
◦ Vertical Downward