558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
A partnership between business and education
Contact Industry and the Crook County High School engineering class are working together to teach students real-world career skills
Crook County High School freshman Trinity Churchill-Dicks finishes his final project in Billy Hall’s manufacturing and engineering class. The final was a reverse engineer rendering of an aluminum moulding provided by Contact Industries.
January 28, 2013
As manufacturing facilities become more sophisticated and they transition to a changing global market, many companies are turning their focus to high schools and colleges to fill high-tech positions.
The Crook County High School engineering and manufacturing class is part of a partnership that addresses the skills needed in this changing workforce. Their instructor, Billy Hall, is working with Keith Eager, Human Resource Manager of Contact Industries in Prineville to incorporate some specific competencies into his curriculum.
Eager said that they are trying to change the public perception of the current business from when it was Contact Lumber, and previously produced commodity millwork such as frames, brick molds, and lineal solids.
“We are having a problem trying to find people who are technically-oriented who want to work in a mill, because everyone thinks it’s a moulding mill — it’s not,” exclaimed Eager.
With a past that was grounded in a strong timber industry and a different kind of product coming out of the facility, Contact Industries has shifted to a product diversification effort, which has included a development of new veneer profile wrapping and adhesive technologies that are used to develop a wide range of commercial architectural products. This is accomplished by adhering real wood veneer to a wide range of surfaces, including aluminum, vinyl, steel, fiberglass, and a variety of engineered and composite wood products.
Eager elaborated that extreme accuracy in measurement and the need to be detail-oriented are attributes that employees need to have when working with machinery at Contact Industries. It is this fact that led Eager to follow up on an article he read in the Central Oregonian regarding the new engineering and manufacturing class at Crook County High school.
Shortly thereafter, a partnership was formed between Hall’s class at CCHS and Contact Industries.
Hall, who began his new position in the fall of 2012, launched the class as a result of a career and technical education grant earlier in the year. After getting the program established, his students now have access to a plasma cutter, a large milling machine, a lathe, a laser engraver, a three-D modeler, and a graphics cutter. Eager saw a correlation to some of the equipment students were learning to use in Hall’s class, and the equipment in the main plant at Clear Pine Mouldings — a division of Contact Industries.
“We were looking at purchasing CNC machinery (Computer Numerical Control),” said Eager. “We don’t have anybody that really knows the language to be able to program it.”
He added that they saw the opportunity to partner with the school and hopefully attract some of these students to their industry. Eager contacted Hall, and he has worked as an advisor to impart the skills that Contact Industries is looking for in this kind of labor. He is hoping that they will be able to set up some student interns in the future.
“Hopefully that is where we will end up,” said Eager.
Some of the skills that he said they are looking for include familiarity with hand tools such as calipers, being mechanically-inclined, the ability to follow drawings and interpret measurements, good math skills, the ability to read and interpret data and directions, timeliness, leadership skills, communications skills, and willingness to follow procedures.
“They wanted to give me some information on what they thought were necessary skills for people coming into the workforce, because at some point in life, everyone has to work,” commented Hall. “That is something I want to focus on. So I am using the information they gave me to work into my curriculum to make sure the students are ready to join the workforce.”
He indicated that there is especially an emphasis on having his students be able to read tape measures, use calipers (a highly accurate measurement device), and do related math. Contact Industries and other businesses in this field of work require measurements to be within a thousandth of an inch when working with their products.
“They also need people who know how to interview and how to articulate in both spoken word and writing, so I have been working also with students on their written explanation of their projects, said Hall.
Last week, which was finals week, students were using a culmination of these skills in their final projects. They also used computer programs such as Rhinoceros 3D and Solid Works. They had to create a reverse engineering rendering of some aluminum moldings that were provided by Contact Industries.
Hall is no stranger to the timber industry revolution or Contact Industries, for that matter. His father worked at the plant before it was Contact Industries, and the main product was oak-over laminated materials.
“He was on the leading edge of setting up some of the newer stuff,” he commented.
Hall said he is surprised on how Contact Industries has modified their market, and how they are specific to architectural design. He pointed to a triangular-shaped piece of molding. He indicated that it was part of a decoration on the roofs of the elevator lobbies of the new World Trade Center.
“Kids are kind of interested to hold that. It’s a part of history that is being built right now.”