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Community - Jun 27, 2021

Waupaca Foundry Empowers the Next Generation of Talent in Foundries & Machine Shops

Ally Melby | Waupaca Foundry

Left to right: Jason Bush, Kevin Goodwin (TTU), and Kenley Hansen bring coke donation to Tennessee Tech.
The metalcasting industry is an unsung hero in manufactured goods. Today, 90 percent of all manufactured goods contain castings, making foundries essential to critical infrastructure, and the need to attract and prepare the next generation with the skillset required for modern manufacturing imperative. The metalcasting industry shows a lot of promise, though. With automation and the acceleration of technology, there are many new career opportunities for the next generation of foundries and its workers, making metalcasting education among today’s students invaluable.
Iron castings suppliers increasingly work collaboratively with K12, technical schools, and college institutions to foster growth and prepare and strengthen the future workforce. Waupaca Foundry is dedicated to providing hands-on learning opportunities in the classroom through both in-kind, monetary, material, and equipment donations, as well as with foundry process simulations in the classroom named Foundry in A Box, as well as out of the classroom through internships in its facilities.
“When you stress the importance of local foundries or foundries suppliers working with a school in their area, to provide donations — they all make a difference,” says Brian Lewis, the Executive Director of Foundry Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen the metal casting industry by supporting unique partnerships among students, educators and industry.
Since 2012, Waupaca Foundry has been in collaboration with Tennessee Tech University to help provide opportunities to its students in the school’s metalcasting program, including tours of Waupaca Foundry, a green sand donation, providing needed repair, and most recently, a 300-pound coke donation for the student's senior capstone project: building a cupola that has since been completed as of May 2021.
“Waupaca in Etowah has been very helpful with us. We've had students work there in internships in the past. We've got a great relationship with Waupaca, and we want to nurture that into the future,” Dr. Fred Vondra, the Foundry Educational Foundation (FEF) Key Professor at Tennessee Tech University and the lead teacher of the capstone project, says.
Forward-thinking projects are a big part of Tennessee Tech University’s engineering curriculum. The university is a Foundry Educational Foundation school, making it just one of 33 colleges and universities in North America that have a strong focus on metalcasting. While the number of FEF schools is small, their impact is remarkable.
The foundation’s purpose is to ensure that there is a healthy pipeline of engaged, trained and talented graduates entering metalcasting careers — whether at a foundry, foundry supplier, or major manufacturers.
To be a certified FEF school, requirements are steep, including a key professor who leads and oversees the program, metalcasting oriented classes with contemplated additions or improvements to the curriculum, laboratory facilities that are devoted to casting, and a local industrial metalcasting advisory board. The results: FEF schools graduate more than 80% of their student base into the metalcasting industry.
“[FEF graduates] are passionate, knowledgeable about metalcasting, and are able to hit the ground running and make immediate impact within a particular company,” Executive Director of FEF, Brian Lewis says. “[We] produce graduates that are more than capable of a career in the industry as well as becoming leaders of this industry.”
Over 40 years ago, Waupaca Foundry started its Summer Help Program that not only provides college-aged students the opportunity to make money during the summer months, but also provides valuable work experience and an insight into the variety of careers in the metalcasting industry. Today, Waupaca Foundry has developed and grown a multitude of student engagement programs. Learn more about Waupaca Foundry’s educational partnerships here.
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