The Secret to Inspiring a New Generation of Manufacturers: Amber Carlson

As programs ensue to showcase manufacturing careers to middle and high school students, the question remains, “How do you get kids who know nothing about manufacturing to be interested in simply checking it out?” There are a variety of ways, but if you’ve got one hour to inspire 10 eighth grade young women, bet on Amber Carlson, Wyoming Machine’s project analyst, to make it happen.

When Rich Wessels, Career Navigator for the Manufacturing Careers Pathway program at White Bear Lake, Minn., Public Schools, invited Wyoming Machine to speak to eighth grade women about manufacturing careers, he needed someone who could relate to these young students, and motivate them. The Pathway program at WBL is a manufacturer’s dream-come-true. In addition to a new curriculum that appeals to both hands-on types and math lovers, WBL School has equipment the envy of schools everywhere including CNC machines, a virtual welder and 3D printers—talk about real-world manufacturing experience. WBL’s 25-year veteran technology teacher, Delroy Nyren, is well-suited to lead the program. Thus, their need to inspire younger students to pursue these classes.

Amber, 29, has risen through the ranks of manufacturing in 13 short years. Since beginning as a “wire wrapper” summer high-school intern, Amber has worked in thin film production, logistics/shipping, production planning, customer service and now, a project analyst.

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As Traci Tapani, co-president of Wyoming Machine with sister Lori Tapani, said, “Amber’s knowledge, years of experience, and ability to relate to a younger audience all played into why she was asked to speak with these young ladies. You often hear that people don’t become what they can’t see. Giving young women the chance to see another young woman who is successful and excited about manufacturing increases the chance that manufacturing or engineering might become part of their dreams for their future.”

Excited about manufacturing? To put it mildly. As Amber exclaimed, “I have always loved that in manufacturing you can take very simple materials or components and make them into something that could help protect our armed forces, for example…If you look around, everything is manufactured, from every aspect of the room you are sitting in, to the car you are driving, clothes you are wearing, and the tools you use. It is amazing to think about how much impact the manufacturing industry has on our daily lives, and I am proud to say I am part of that industry.”

Knowing that eighth graders knew little about manufacturing, Amber brought along small parts and products made at Wyoming Machine. She started with a miniature metal bike and frog, describing all the processes involved in their production, from the request for quote through packaging and shipping.

Central to engaging all the young women was convincing them of the many skills and talents that manufacturing needs—not just math geeks and hands-on people, and not just men, but women, too. Likewise, Amber sought to overcome internal objections girls lacking self confidence may have. She shared that just because they haven’t earned high grades, doesn’t mean they can’t work in manufacturing. As Amber explained, “I didn’t get the best grades in school—but once you get passionate about something, everything just clicks.”

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