In its latest effort to cultivate next-generation manufacturers, Honda North America launches a $1 million workforce training initiative in Ohio, where the effort is credited with offering more than the latest and greatest industrial technologies.

The automaker’s study program teaches “that to prepare students for career and college readiness we must also focus on collaboration, communication, perseverance and problem-solving,” Kathy McKinnis, principal of Marysville Early College High School, tells WardsAuto in a phone interview.

The high school, with a specialized curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), was established in 2014 through a grant by the state’s “Straight A Fund” and since has developed in collaboration with Honda, Columbus State Community College, the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center and Union County Chamber of Commerce.

Honda actively works with the school in configuring study spaces, selecting lab equipment, picking out instructors and creating the curriculum for the manufacturing education pathway, which so far has attracted 45 of the high school’s 143 students, according to McKinnis.

The Honda technicians and engineers who participate in the program are tasked with finding opportunities for students to learn about manufacturing careers through tours and know-how sharing sessions.

“I think that our partnership with Honda has helped us better understand the workforce needs in advanced manufacturing,” McKinnis says, further noting the automaker has pledged to “stand ready to support our school with mentoring and providing our students with real-world problems and challenges.”

The company’s involvement in the high school curriculum “is the culmination of many creative partnerships we have forged with educators, businesses and Honda associates to help design this program,” Rick Schostek, executive vice president-Honda North America, says in a company statement. He confirms the initiative will be used as a model by Honda and supplier operations for similar programs in other areas of the country.

But a high school presence is just one part of Honda’s so-called EPIC manufacturing initiative, dubbed after its four main goals:

  • Create Enthusiasm about manufacturing among middle school students.
  • Generate Passion among high schoolers for harnessing the power of technology.
  • Promote Innovative instruction at 2-year colleges.
  • Maintain a continuing Commitment to further educational opportunities for company associates.

Beyond Marysville Early College High School, Honda has spearheaded several other middle school, high school and college-level programs aimed at identifying and inspiring potential associates. They include:

  • Working with Edheads, a Hilliard, OH, educational-game developer, to create a first-of-its kind manufacturing video game designed for classroom use. The game teaches logic and critical thinking and takes the user to an engine-production line where they apply math and problem-solving skills to find answers to real-world problems.
  • Collaborating with other businesses and schools to create hands-on manufacturing activities in six mobile teaching labs, which include production robotics and other trappings from the real-world manufacturing environment.
  • Teaming with Ohio-based TechCorps – which develops and stages youth-oriented technology introduction programs – to hold full-day, weeklong summer “Techie Camps” where middle-school students are able to immerse themselves in activities such as computer programming, and web and app development.
  • Nominating and helping fund up to five schools in three counties to become part of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation’s PRIME initiative, which will open the schools to receive funding from Honda for advanced curriculum and support of STEM activities.
  • Partnering with a number of 2-year colleges in the Central Ohio region to create manufacturing opportunities and innovative training strategies for incoming high-school graduates.
  • Establishing 12 new scholarships of $2,500 each for students opting to pursue associate’s degrees in manufacturing or mechanical-engineering technology from local colleges.
  • Developing pilot work-study programs at Columbus State Univ. and other colleges, giving up to 18 students at each participating school the chance to work three days a week at Honda while continuing to attend classes the remaining two.