STIHL Inc. camp inspires youth to pursue manufacturing careers

June 23, 2014
By: Vicki Bell

Think you might be interested in starting a summer camp to attract youth to manufacturing careers? STIHL Inc. did just that, found the endeavor worthwhile, and has even created a template for other companies to use in promoting manufacturing technology to youth.

Many manufacturers bemoan the shortage of skilled talent rising through the ranks of today's youth, but how many are actually doing something to improve the situation?

Realizing the seriousness of the shortage, STIHL Inc., a producer of handheld outdoor power equipment, launched its Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp in 2011 and is preparing for the 2014 camp.

STIHL's Andrew Jaeckle, manager of talent acquisition, recently participated in a Q&A with about the camp.

Q. Where and when is the camp held?

A. The camp is held each year at STIHL Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va.  This year's camp will be held July 16-19.

Q. When was the first camp launched, and what was the impetus?

A. Modern manufacturing companies are in desperate need of skilled workers. According to a study by Manpower Group, that demand is only expected to increase in the coming years.

The annual Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp was developed to foster the next generation of skilled manufacturing workers. Getting students interested in manufacturing technology now is key to filling manufacturing positions in the future.

STIHL Inc. launched the first camp in 2011 in which high school students collaborated on teams to build clocks.  At this year's event, the students will be manufacturing wireless Bluetooth speakers made from STIHL parts.

Q. What did the planning involve?

A. The planning process was extensive and included developing a curriculum, recruiting the appropriate instructors and volunteer coaches, and establishing relationships with key sponsors.

Q. How is it promoted, and who attends?

A. The camp is promoted through Dream It. Do It. Virginia, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, as well as traditional media channels. We also promote through direct outreach to local schools.

Approximately 40 high school students attend the camp.

Quotes from STIHL Inc.'s Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp participants:

Student Chelsea Hurst said being on the winning team has given her the confidence to pursue her dreams:

"I want to be an engineer when I grow up, and being here showed me what it is all about."

Charles Chiou first participated in the Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp in 2012 as a rising senior in high school and volunteered as an assistant coach in 2013:

"As a camper, I enjoyed being immersed within a work environment that was both professional and competitive. I also enjoyed putting my hands-on skills to the test and applying them to various objectives throughout the camp.

"As an assistant, I enjoyed sharing my experiences and skills to promote learning and fun for campers. It is great to share experiences to inspire younger students.

"The summer camp revealed various aspects of manufacturing that highlighted the technical field for me.

"After college I hope to be considered for graduate studies in the field of engineering; hopefully concentrated towards some type of energy sustainability/ energy management."

Chiou's advice to other campers:

"Look forward to being challenged by professionals, volunteers, and fellow peers who hope to inspire and motivate your professionalism. Take every minute of the camp into consideration as you may find yourself talking with potential mentors."

Q. Describe the program and what the attendees learn.

A. The four-day program provides high school students with hands-on experience in designing and building products. During the camp, students learn how to operate machines, construct products (made from STIHL parts), and determine the most efficient way to manufacture them. 

On the final day each team of students competes to see which team had the best process to manufacture their products. Each student on the winning team receives a scholarship of up to $1,000 from the Virginia Industry Foundation; scholarships are funded by STIHL Inc., Virginia Beach Economic Development Commission, FESTO, ECPI University, and other camp supporters.

Q.  Has there been any follow-up to see how many attendees went on to pursue careers in manufacturing?

A. We are keeping up with several students, one of whom is now majoring in mechanical engineering at Old Dominion University. This is only the fourth year the event has taken place, and we look forward to hearing about more success stories as the years go on.

Q. How would another company go about running a camp? What kind of financial commitment is involved? Any special considerations or advice?

A. Teaming with local schools and technical colleges is essential in making the event a long-term success. It's a chance to let students have fun with the creation process in manufacturing.

Designing a different product each year keeps things interesting for the students and staff. 

STIHL Inc. has created camp templates for other companies interested in promoting manufacturing technology to our youth.

Q. How long do you see the company continuing the camp?

A. STIHL hopes to continue the camp for a long time to come.  Manufacturing is a very important building block of the U.S., and we hope to keep inspiring the youth of America to pursue a career in this field.

Note: Virginia companies interested in starting their own manufacturing camps can find out more from Dream It. Do It. Virginia, a major sponsor of STIHL's and other technology camps across the state. Locations for other Dream It Do It-affiliated organizations can be found here.

757-486-9100 | / @stihlusa

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209