Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the fundamental idea behind the HTEC programme?
Katja Mader, Haas Automation Europe’s Marketing Director: The HTEC programme exists to create strong bonds between the local Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) and a local school or technical college. In creating these bonds, an HFO can support and nurture the next generation of CNC machinists, which benefits the school, its students, local businesses and the HFO.
Bert Maes, HTEC coordinator: Our goal is to help schools and businesses to bring more young people into CNC manufacturing by providing them with the best technology and the necessary support infrastructure. HTECs help them to achieve that goal and, as a result, can also help to boost the local manufacturing economy.
Q: What are the basic principles behind a successful HTEC?
KM: Firstly, and most importantly, the HTEC environment is designed to be inspiring. We want it to be clean and well organised, and we want it to reflect the very best manufacturing environment the students are likely to encounter when they leave education. It’s the job of the local HFO to provide day-to-day support, so that nearby companies see the facility as a centre of manufacturing excellence and a source of highly trained, apprentice machinists.
Q: What makes the HTEC programme different to educational support offered by other machine tool companies?
BM: Over a number of years, and with the help of several university professors, we at HAE have written and refined principles based on several years of study on how to motivate students and teachers, how to support innovative educational techniques and how to best implement the HTEC programme in schools and colleges.
KM: An important point to note is that HAE does not give or loan machines to an HTEC. Many manufacturers do in fact loan machines, but usually for short periods. When the loan period comes to an end, say after two years, the machine is removed and the school can no longer teach. Obviously, a school cannot make a long-term commitment to its students or its staff unless machine installations and support are both permanent and ongoing. HAE insists on a commitment from all parties. We also work with our HFOs, nearby manufacturing companies and government departments to find and raise the finance to create permanent facilities.
Q: In your experience, what motivates young people to choose a career in precision manufacturing?
BM: Young people want to learn new and marketable skills. They want new challenges, constant change and new experiences. They also expect cutting edge, high-quality equipment to work with. In fact, young people today quite rightly expect the same high quality equipment in the classroom as they have in their homes and daily lives. The HTEC programme aims to deliver skills and knowledge that lead to exciting and well-paid careers.
Q: Does the HTEC programme also help and encourage young women to enter engineering?
KM: Yes, definitely. Only 5% of school age girls say they are interested in a career in engineering. Of course, that has a lot to do with stereotypes and industry prejudice that presents manufacturing careers as inappropriate choices for women, but that’s changing fast.
BM: Careers in engineering offer similar prospects as careers in science and technology, and statistically, young women often perform better than their male peers in number and science-based subjects. The female students we meet through the HTEC programme are exceptional, not necessarily for their academic abilities, but for their positive attitudes and their willingness to learn. We try to hold them up as examples to other young women by featuring them in case studies and profiles.
Q: Approximately how many students are involved or have already benefited from the HTEC programme in Europe?
BM: Given that there are now more than 50 HTECs in Europe, with an average of 20 students at each, we estimate that currently over 1000 students are learning CNC machining skills using Haas machine tools. That’s at least1000 qualified machinists entering the workplace every year or two. However, It’s also important to note that HAE has installed Haas machines in 560 European schools that are not fully-fledged HTECs. We estimate that as many as 10,000 students are trained on these machines every year.
Q: Young people are keen and prolific users of social and electronic media for communicating and building networks. How does HAE use the latest technology to keep in contact with HTEC students and staff?
BM: This is an enormous challenge, given that the European HTEC programme already spans several countries and embraces many languages. In July we launched a completely revised and redesigned website, which is more useful to everyone involved with the HTEC programme, including HFOs, industry partners and other, external bodies, such as government departments and potential employers.
KM: The new website is current in English, German, Italian, French, Dutch and Swedish, and incorporates links to social media, such as Bert’s Blog. Generally, the site is easier to use than the previous site, which we felt didn’t reflect our vision and goals for the HTEC programme.
Q: What will advanced-manufacturing in Europe look like in the future? What kind of technicians will the CNC metal cutting sector need?
KM: We see that European manufacturing companies are increasingly automating their plants and laying-off low-skilled workers. However, despite the growing number of advanced, semi-automatic and automatic machines and robots in general use, more people with specialist skills will be needed, to set-up and refine systems, solve problem and ensure production runs smoothly and efficiently. This trend presents a tremendous opportunity for HTEC graduates.
BM: Manufacturers are specifically looking to hire people who understand sophisticated computerised machinery and more than one process. They need people who are capable of resolving complex production issues, who can run systems as well as provide preventive maintenance, make routine repairs, and recognise and implement opportunities to improve processes. Through the HTEC program we try to give students a broad knowledge and specific skills in CNC machining, CAM software, cutting tools, workholding, coolant, etc. Every one of the HTEC industry partner companies is committed to supplying their products, expertise and teaching materials. We feel that the HTEC programme comprises a unique and powerful combination of the latest technology and support.