Getting in Gear: Exposing the Next Generation to Manufacturing…

 …A Q&A perspective from inside and outside of Harbec

Planning, developing, and ensuring a sustainable economic future is everyone’s responsibility. Having a vibrant economy, active job pool, dynamic workforce, and a diversity of economic opportunities are indicators of economic growth and prosperity. But achieving these ends requires strong coordination, partnership, and deliberate strategies between business, academia, government, and research organizations. No effort is too small when it comes to building a robust, sustainable economy.

Harbec regularly hosts groups of students from local schools ranging from Middle school through college level. By providing students with opportunities to visualize manufacturing technologies, Harbec is planting deliberate seeds to enrich a local workforce. Further, many students in local high schools are drawn to Harbec not only to experience new technology, but to learn more about the limitless potential associated with careers in advanced manufacturing, clean energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable production.

Although a pragmatic outcome of shaping young minds is preparing them for specific job opportunities, Harbec also believes that  creating awareness of sustainable manufacturing and business models can support the development of a next generation of leaders that extend their knowledge to all sectors of the economy. In doing so the economy can be further strengthened; thereby providing societal dividends such as new jobs, philanthropy, research, and innovations that improve our world.

Harbec recently asked owner Bob Bechtold, HR manager Todd Patterson, Webster Middle School technology teacher John Hohman (a 22 year teaching veteran who brought students to tour Harbec) and Dake Middle School student Owen (who recently toured Harbec) about the future of manufacturing. Here is a summary of the insights shared:

Question: What skills are necessary to be successful in manufacturing?

  • Harbec: Bob and Todd agreed, we look for new hires that have an ability and desire to do things with their hands and that are mechanically minded. We seek out employees that have skills in math and science, communication and a developable (growth oriented) work ethic.
  • Student: Owen stated: “One must be organized, persistent and able to trouble-shoot. After being at Harbec for a tour, it became apparent that having a strong organization is important for managing so many people and machines. “
  • Teacher: Mr Hohman added, that for a student to be successful in manufacturing, or any career, there must be a desire to learn and work- they must have intrinsic motivation.


Question: Who is the ideal candidate for a career in manufacturing? What are their key characteristics?

  • Harbec: For Harbec, ideal candidates from high schools are those students that have been actively involved in Technology classes at all levels. We navigate towards students that are hands on at fixing things and are comfortable with computers. A good candidate for working in manufacturing should also have an appetite for change (its constant).
  • Student: Owen believes a good candidate would be,”someone who understands the math and science involved in the process. Ideally a person who is energized within the (busy) manufacturing environment.”
  • Teacher: “Failing is a necessary function of success” states Mr. Hohman. This refers to the idea that it is OK to fail for the sake of growth and improvement and should not be feared. Many people (students and adults) are taught that failure is bad and that success is based on lack of failure. This is not a productive mentality in the “hands on” world.This is not to say that Individuals/Companies should adopt an approach of recklessness, or thoughtlessness. The problem should always be smaller than when you started.

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Question: How have you seen careers in manufacturing change (over the past 5 years or so) and what do you predict for the future (next 5 years)?

  • Harbec: Bob Bechtold reflects on observations from his career, “in the past 45 years the manufacturing sector has seen changes from a fully manual process to one that is primarily computer driven. The core knowledge that is necessary is the same in both scenarios, however the primary tools have changed because we are not figuring them out by hand (on paper) but with computers. At Harbec we have seen the yield (output) of 1 person double or even triple with the introduction of new equipment, software systems, and advanced manufacturing technologies. This has been done through improvements in machine/technology’s accuracy, complexity, repeatability, and therefore overall productivity.” Bob believes, that in the future, there will be a greater interweaving of additive and subtractive methods of manufacturing which will again double or triple, not only the yield, but also the range of possibilities. This will allow for complexities which cannot even be conceived of today. Technology and manufacturing solutions are ever-changing, so at Harbec, we strive to develop our new employees from all levels which create opportunities for High School and College graduates. This means our employees can grow in their job and experience a career in manufacturing at all levels.
  • Student: Owen says, “although I haven’t been involved in manufacturing, I know it has changed. In the future I would imagine more of the process would be carried out by automation technologies (robotics).
  • Teacher: Mr Hohman teaches his students about Kevin Fleming’s “Success in the New Economy”. The need for an unskilled labor force is dwindling in our society. In the future, the majority of work will require specific training or certification which however, is not solely accomplished through 4 or more years of college.


Question: How does working with each other (local school/local manufacturer) help you?

  • Harbec:  Working with local schools insures that we have accessibility to a local workforce. You can’t use technology if you don’t have people to run it. The success of technology hinges on people. We have found that working with schools from Middle to  High School through College levels creates a relationship which offers opportunities. When a student has a good experience at Harbec, whether it is in an internship or a summer job, they go on to tell their teachers, professors, neighbors, and family. This positive reinforcement provides Harbec with a continuous pool of high quality and performing candidates.
  • Teacher: Our current Middle level program has evolved into the 3 primary aspects of Technology: Physical Technology, Information/Communication, and Energy & Bio-Related Technology.  Working  with local employers such as Harbec, allows him to maintain program goals relevant to the needs of industry, NYS curriculum requirements, as well as the interests of students.
  • Student: “Visiting Harbec showed me how a facility, not too far from our school, is creating parts for the medical field”, said Owen.

Technology and manufacturing solutions are ever-changing, so at Harbec, we strive to develop our new employees from all levels which creates opportunities for both High School and College graduates. This allows our employees to grow in their job and experience a career in manufacturing at all levels.Partnering with schools exposes the future (students) to a local business with technology and potential careers that they were previously unaware of.


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