In just a few short years, the Clarke Community Schools Industrial Technology program has been converted from a floundering ancillary elective to one of rural Iowa’s leading technology programs. Through hard work, collaboration and a future-focus, the district and Clarke’s Industrial Technology Instructor, Dave Lyden, are preparing students for good, sustainable careers after graduation.
Upon taking the position late in 2015, Lyden quickly realized the challenges ahead of him. With a program that had been neglected and lacking the modern necessities to prepare students for pathways in the industrial arts and technology trades, he quickly assessed the situation to develop a program that could benefit the students. Starting with the basics, Technical Drafting, he developed a curriculum with the 7th and 8th grade students, introducing graphic and industrial design concepts, building the foundation they could carry through to high school and beyond.
Lyden also held a school auction to clear the department of dangerous, outdated, broken or non-functioning equipment. With matching money, he was able to acquire the first piece of modern equipment the department had seen for years – a CNC ArcLight Pro plasma cutting table. This piece would not only integrate the technical drafting and design skills the students were learning, but also open opportunities for students to pick up the welding and fabrication skills that accompany such equipment in real-life manufacturing workflows.
Shortly after his first year, Lyden was approached by Bill Trickey of the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC), with a proposal to form an Industrial Technology Advisory Board with local manufacturing companies. With Iowa manufacturing powerhouses like Altec, Miller Products Company, Salford Manufacturing, SIMCO Drilling Equipment, Inc., Paul Mueller Company, Iowa Steel, Osceola Foods on the advisory board as well as local and regional support from the Clarke County REC, the Clarke County Arts Council, and the Clarke Community School District, the ability to turn the program around accelerated.
“Osceola, Iowa, in my opinion, is a ‘Powerhouse Community in Iowa’s Manufacturing Industry’,” said Dave Lyden, Clarke Community School’s Industrial Technology Instructor. “For its size and population, the number of products and materials Osceola produces competes with many large communities.”
With collaboration and support from the Advisory Board, the Clarke Industrial Technology Program has been able to devise a curriculum and acquire the equipment that provides students the skills that are in demand in the marketplace today. From computer design and drafting to “real-life” experience with the tools found on the floors of these manufacturers, Clarke students are able to get a stronger understanding of the future of manufacturing and grasp the concepts that will make them more marketable right out of high school.
Lyden was quick to point out that the Advisory Board provides more than guidance to the Clarke Industrial Technology program. In the short time the Board has been working with the students, all advisors have stepped up, donating or helping fund additional equipment and programs.
Students now have access to an impressive metal fabrication area that is equipped with modern TIG and MIG welders to accompany the ARCLight Pro CNC plasma table. With that, students can take courses focused on CAD (computer aided design) software using Solidworks – one of the most prolific CAD software applications in the industry – on enough workstations to meet the increasing student demand.
Clarke student’s digital design capabilities are entering the 3-D manufacturing world as well. With the addition of a year old 100-watt Laser machine and two 3-D printers, the Clarke Industrial Technology program is experimenting and executing at levels not seen in most high school level programs.
“Our hope for the Advisory Board is to foster a stronger future for these students,” said Bill Trickey, CCDC Executive Director. “If we can make them a more marketable workforce for our local businesses, that directly impacts the future success of our entire community.”
Curriculum within the program continues to evolve, according to Lyden. Many of the local manufacturers are developing mentorships and offering credited internship opportunities as well as employment incentives to recent graduates of the program. As technology opportunities present themselves, students, teachers, and advisors are able to discuss the viability and practicality of integrating them into Clarke’s program. Events like the recent Welding Competition provide the students with a fun atmosphere to show their skills and work toward a collective goal with board advisors and team mates. And with a constant focus on problem-solving and teamwork, the Clarke Industrial Technology program develops the skills needed to succeed in today’s manufacturing industry.