The purpose of this project is to show how and why a character-based curriculum rooted in sound theology can help provide high school students interested in manufacturing find purpose and direction in their choosing a career.
In collaboration with the Edgerton Senior High School in Edgerton, Wisconsin, this project was hosted at Edgerton Gear, Inc., a medium-sized gear manufacturer I own and serve as president of the company. In response to a perceived skills gap in manufacturing, the Edgerton High School has endeavored to provide educational and career opportunities for students not interested in a traditional four-year university education. Recognizing manufacturing is often wrongly perceived as a dirty, dark and dangerous profession, I developed a curriculum to expose students to the world of high- tech manufacturing while attempting to influence their characters and worldviews through a comprehensive approach, including teaching, praxis, mentoring, and reflection. During a semester, students were engaged on the shop floor with mentors 80 percent of their time, while the remaining 20 percent was spent in a classroom, with the emphasis on real world application and development of virtuous character. Behind this curriculum is the truth that character development and spiritual formation take place centrally in the context of work rather than a classroom or retreat center.
Two teaching sessions were conducted with a total of fourteen students involved. Research findings were gleaned from student journals and evaluations, mentor and teacher feedback, and direct observation. The results show marked improvement in self-worth, understanding of the value of work and trades, and definitive direction in career choices.