The most recent AMBA plant tour was a ½ day visit to Cardinal Manufacturing, a 12 year old manufacturing company located in Strum, Wisconsin. The self-sustaining and growing company is comprised of 20+ rotating high school Juniors and Seniors engaged in fabrication and machining for local companies and individuals.  Each student must apply for the program via a portfolio of information in their sophomore year (competition is tough) and interview for a position.

Although the students learn welding and CNC machining techniques, their teacher Craig Cegielski notes the learning is actually 90 percent soft skills and maybe only 10 percent technical.   Students learn how to organize and manage their school and shop time; understand the importance of being dependable and punctual; communicate and work effectively with others; achieve product shipment deliveries and interface with outside customers; develop business relationship etiquette and prepare themselves for future schooling and employment.

Not only do they develop the above noted life skills, they have a network of business owners who are involved and community support as mentors.  Some noted philosophies from mentors include: “One hand is for giving, the other hand is for receiving”; “If you do good, you’ll do well” and “Try to pay things forward when you can”.

The Cardinal Manufacturing model and variations of the model are now being duplicated by several other schools throughout the United States including development in Ohio.  AMBA is one of over a dozen companies that supports the Cardinal Manufacturing effort.  With the shortage of trained technical manufacturing people in the U.S., this “unique ray of hope” was definitely an enlightening   experience.

Read more about Cardinal Manufacturing’s story here: