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teaching manufacturing

Teaching a New Generation of Manufacturers

Hello, reader—Brian Kippen here, owner and founder of KAD, back with another installment of our new series, The Future of Manufacturing. This series spotlights problems we face in the manufacturing industry and what solutions KAD is testing. I hope this will be a collaborative process, and I would love to hear your thoughts on these topics. Drop me a line so we can connect and work to reinvigorate the manufacturing industry together.

If you’ve been reading KAD’s Future of Manufacturing series, you know how passionate I am about strengthening the manufacturing industry and reinvigorating the workforce. 

From committing to diversity in the workplace and “training from scratch” initiatives to hosting events in our community that shine a light on manufacturing careers, I’m doing my best to implement solutions to the challenges our industry faces. 

And now, I’m really putting my money where my mouth is by taking on a full-time teaching role. 

Founder and CEO of KAD. . . and Teacher at RTCC

That’s right. I recently began teaching at the Randolph Technical Career Center (RTCC) in Randolph, Vermont. Specifically, I teach Industrial Design and Fabrication (which used to be called Advanced Manufacturing—more on that later) five days a week. 

How did I get here? Well, the school needed an instructor, and while I don’t have a traditional teaching background, I do have plenty of technical knowledge and experience. 

Taking on this role has shifted my responsibilities at KAD. I’m still running our precision machine shop locations in California and Vermont, and now I have another full-time job. I won’t go into the breakdown of my hours, but I can tell you that I’ll be in the shop and at RTCC daily. 

The KAD team is figuring out the transition, and we’re exploring how to best make it work as we go. I’m fortunate to have such an amazing and trustworthy team to manage the shop while I’m teaching. 

And it’s clear already that this transition is paving the way for new opportunities at KAD. Be on the lookout for more open roles and updates about how we’re improving our communication processes. If I figure out how to clone myself or teleport, I’ll be sure to let you know! 

Jokes aside, the reality is that I own a precision machine shop with two bicoastal locations, and my team is perfectly capable of functioning without me there at all times. I have traveled between locations before, and KAD has continued to deliver high-quality prototype models for our clients no matter where I am. I know we can make this new endeavor work.

The bottom line is that this opportunity is worth it to me. It’s worth my time and energy if it means I’ll have the chance to inspire younger generations to get involved in manufacturing.

What I Hope to Learn and Accomplish

I signed up for this experience in large part because I want to learn how the trades are discussed in education and the community. I want to know what resonates with this new generation of students—and what doesn’t. 

I’m well aware of the reputation problem that plagues manufacturing, and I’m determined to find out if—and how—the right messages can improve people’s perceptions of this industry I love so much.

For example, RTCC changed the name of the course I’m teaching from Advanced Manufacturing to Industrial Design and Fabrication. The previous name wasn’t attracting enough applicants, and there were concerns that interest was low due to stereotypes about manufacturing. I wonder how the name change will shape students’ expectations and experiences.

I’m also curious about how the manufacturing industry is helping high school-level educators prepare students for a successful career and whether educators are providing up-to-date skills. Something that I believe will help bridge the gap between the skills currently being taught and the skills needed to work in a job shop is an advisory board. I’m currently assembling my own advisory board of manufacturing leaders and educators to help guide the creation of a meaningful curriculum. 

Through daily classroom life, parent-teacher interactions, and connecting with local companies, I hope to understand why so many skilled trade programs aren’t successful today, with the goal of improving these pathways for the next generation of manufacturers.

There’s no doubt this will be an insightful, exciting, action-packed year! I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. 

If you have any questions or want to get in touch about technical trade education opportunities—or if you have any advice or recommendations—I’m all ears! 

Please get in touch so we can work together to reinvigorate the manufacturing workforce, one classroom, open house, or blog post at a time.