Stuart Keeler Stuart Keeler

Making College Graduates Job-Ready

September 1, 2016

How many times have college seniors attended their graduations, received their diplomas and reported the following Monday to a full-time job in a sheetmetal-manufacturing plant? Are fresh graduates ready to start day one with a usable knowledge base and an understanding of the daily language? A graduate should not require several months on the job before being able to work without a translator and daily guide.

Most colleges and universities employ excellent professors and great teaching programs. Unfortunately, some lack a key segment or two of information. Here are some issues and remedies.

1) Press-shop jobs are not “cool”—students have misconceptions about career paths.

Application of Data
Fig. 1—The red zone in the center peak predicts stamped-part failures during production.
Decades ago, many press-shop jobs were not the best—lube a blank, insert it into the die, push the button to cycle the press, remove and stack the part. However, working in modern press shops presents more interesting opportunities, dealing with advanced high-strength steels, for example, and new lubricants, computerized controls and more. Better tools for process tracking are used, including ultrasonic thickness gauges, laser thermometers, computer-operated tensile-test machines, and virtual forming and data-driven analyses. Using virtual forming, for example (Fig. 1), can help predict if a new part will fail in the press before die construction begins. Technology has become very cool.

2) Proper classroom instruction is needed.

One can spend 4 yr. at a university gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge. But the learning is a complete waste of time if the knowledge is not consistent with actual job requirements. For example, which of the following topics is most important to prepare a student for a job in an automotive press shop?

A) Understand the 27 workhardening equations, their derivations and applications.

B) Understand the power law, forming-limit curve, n-value, maximum allowable strain gradient and forming quality issues.

C) Know all of the standards for running a hardness test.

For the job-ready candidate, the knowledge presented in answer B best describes the information needed to make successful parts in a press shop. A is the correct answer for researchers working in a lab. And, the ability to run hardness tests (C) to determine the resistance of a sheetmetal surface to wear is not useful for determining material stretchability.

To become even better prepared for graduation day, some students search for opportunities to undergo on-the-job training during their 4 yr. of classes. They can:

• Work at summer internships/jobs

• Look for weekend or second-shift jobs

• Attend schools with co-op programs

• Learn from a textbook (always the second choice; learning to solve problems in the field always is preferred).

3) Study the work of researchers, teachers and others already active in the field, and understand that simulation without data validation is simply animation.

A national meeting was held to select proposals for simulation and other predictive programs for industrial applications. All were approved without any plans for data experiments to validate the theoretical output. Therefore, bad predictions could flow freely without any program termination.

A European-university professor once reported that there is no thickness contribution to the forming-limit curve because no theory says there should be one. To the contrary: North American researchers have found such a contribution during actual research tests. Theories must be validated by experimental data. However, experimental data duplicated by independent research centers can stand on their own without a theory.

4) Some colleges and universities have made considerable changes to how they teach technology.

From 1950 to 1985, Professor Donald Eary taught metalforming at the General Motors Institute (now known as Kettering Institute). He knew that having students sit in a classroom all day probably was not the most effective way to learn. So, he and Edward Reed from Chevrolet-Flint Manufacturing turned some of the classroom days into laboratory days. While the students were enjoying the challenges of the assigned projects, they were being job-trained. Prof. Eary accumulated stacks of data related to metalforming that he and Reed published in their book, Techniques of Pressworking Sheet Metal—An Engineering Approach to Die Design.

Let’s fast forward to 2016, where students have free access to technical textbooks and courses available on the Internet. They no longer need to listen to a professor in a crowded classroom repeating the same material. Instead, students can report to the classroom to ask their professor follow-up questions regarding the assigned material. Questioning complete, the students then can head for their respective research laboratories. That’s how we wind up with job-ready workers. MF

Industry-Related Terms: Blank, Center, Die, Forming, Insert, LASER, Run, Surface, Thickness, Ultrasonic
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Quality Control, Training


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