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INNOVATIVE WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS IN ACTION

MHI Member Panther Industries Partners with Neighboring STEM High School to Develop Next Generation Supply Chain Workforce

By Angela Jenkins, MHI Director of Career & Technical Education (CTE)

In addition to developing curriculum, MHI’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program provides both resources and support to—as well as facilitates connections between—industry and academia at all levels: including students and instructors from high schools, trade and technical schools, community colleges and correctional institutions.

Along the way, many MHI members, user companies and other associations have shared with us how they’ve been creating innovative workforce solutions within their own communities. Some of those members and users will detail their experiences in person during the “Innovative Workforce Solutions: Lessons from the Leading Edge” panel discussion on Monday, October 2 at the MHI 2017 Annual Conference in Florida (see sidebar).

One of the participating panelists is Christian Dow, vice president of sales and marketing at MHI member Panther Industries. Located in Highlands Ranch, CO—a southern suburb of Denver—Dow’s company is the only manufacturer in its area. As a member of MHI and a manufacturer of print-and-apply labeling systems, the company is well aware of the challenges facing employers throughout the supply chain.

“We have a gap in the talent workforce here in the South Denver metro area,” he explains. “Although we’ve been looking to add employees as our business has grown, we were having difficulty finding qualified applicants in our immediate area.”

Dow, who had attended MHI’s Workforce Summits, considered forming workforce development partnerships with universities and technical schools, but geographically it wasn’t convenient. “We’re an hour away from the major schools—including the University of Colorado, Colorado State and the Colorado School of Mines—and just as I had begun to work with ITT Technical Institute, that organization closed its doors,” he recalls.

The ideal academic partner for Panther turned out to be located at the other end of its city block. Dow and his colleagues had been aware of neighboring STEM School Highlands Ranch since it opened in August 2011 with grades 6 – 9. But it wasn’t until the public charter school grew to its full program enrollment of kindergarten through 12th grade in August 2016 that the idea of building a relationship at the high school level occurred to him.

“I realized that high school students already studying in a STEM—which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—program might also be interested in learning how they could apply their skills in the real world at a manufacturer,” he says. “I really thought it could be a win-win.”

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