Skateboarding Your Way Into Skilled Labor

Prepare students for our local skilled job market through a unique and fun learning experience.

In 2017 the Washington Post published an article that featured our town of Warsaw, Indiana as an example of how the low unemployment rate equates to a labor shortage for skilled manufacturing jobs in the area. Known as the “Orthopedic Capital of the World,” Warsaw has a high need for skilled manufacturing and biomedical engineering labor. This rural area of the country offers the possibility of economic mobility, but is struggling to fill jobs. The Manufacturing class at the Warsaw Area Career Center is a perfect blend of hands-on engineering design and machine use, introducing and preparing students for the local job market. It appeals to youth -- students get to design and build skateboards, snowboards, surfboards, and more. Collaboration and communication skills are developed as students build their boards and participate in local boardsport activities. The goal is that students become invested in the local geography, each other, and their connection to the local labor market.

The city is actively seeking ways to make Warsaw a place where our home-grown want to be and this class can play a part in the effort. In previous generations an attitude developed about factory labor that permeates today’s students: that college is the way to go. There is a chasm in our school that separates the students that take Manufacturing classes and those that do not. By utilizing the board building projects, the Manufacturing class reaches a diverse range of students and changes the stigma attached to the course and trade skills. The $25,000 grant will provide a financial foundation for the class as we develop programing and seek sponsorships locally, ensuring its availability for years to come. The cost of materials and maintenance of equipment exceeds the standard class budget. Additionally, we would like to expand scholarship opportunities for students with financial needs to assist with course fees.

In the first semester of Manufacturing with the boarding curriculum, student interest has grown. Students that in the past would not have considered taking a Manufacturing class have signed up for the coming school year. We already see a more diverse range of students enrolled. Other students have shown concern for their current grades to meet requirements necessary to take the class. This class is creating a cohesive culture though a common activity, an important shift for our community and our children’s future. This class promotes physical activity outside the classroom and away from electronic devices. Programing is being developed to mentor relationships with younger students through design, engineering, and action sports influencing the next group of students to look forward to their high school education. Service projects are embedded within the class that involve the local Parks and Recreation Department, connecting students with our landscape and recreational resources.