Sundance Family Foundation and the Minneapolis North leading youth from North Minneapolis high schools on a tour of Graco Inc on October 12th. This tour as a part of the national, “Manufacturing Days”, featured Graco, a neighbor, as one of the over 2000 employers who opened their doors to youth, highlighting the vast array of opportunities found in an industrial vocation. Sponsors included the Minneapolis School District, Workforce Development, The Minnesota Center for Excellence in Manufacturing, and Sundance Family Foundation.

Our tour group began with students from Henry High School. This is the first tour that Sundance has facilitated with Minneapolis Public Schools faculty.

Of the eighteen youth in attendance, five were from after-school youth development programs called Youth Social Entrepreneurships. They included students enrolled in programs with  Appetite for Change, and Elpis Enterprises. Directors Paul Ramsor from Elpis and Darryl Lindsey from Appetite for Change were on board for the interactive tour, as well. Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) integrate practices of positive youth development with community engagement and social entrepreneurship. Youth learn while they earn, receiving opportunities to grow their knowledge of business management and entrepreneurial thinking,  leadership development, first time job skills, and learning to become leader representatives within their communities.

Our group was greeted with a warm reception from the Graco staff. This was their first effort hosting a tour for Manufacturing Days, and what an incredible job they did!

We were split into three smaller groups, each with a 30-minute tour of the production facility. This part of the tour focused on the products that Graco makes, but more importantly, the personable tour guides drew our focus to all the captivating machinery that was around us. Without exception, the youth were energized and engaged every moment of the tour.

After our stroll through this multi-million dollar robotics wonderland, we were brought to a space that housed a series of six stations with interactive activities especially developed for the youth.These activities were designed to highlight a particular aspect of manufacturing success. There was a game that demonstrated supply chain thinking; and a station showing the importance of measuring. These spaces were not focused on “teaching” these skills, as much as allowing youth to “try them out.”

This approach is similar to the Sundance Wunderkammer model designed to engage youth at tech and training fairs in a more collaborative, interactive manner than traditional job fairs. The interactive design model is presented with the goal of evoking curiosity and awe, with the hope that youth will be sparked to envision themselves working in a job or on a career path within a particular company or industry.

After working our way through the stations, our group was brought to still another space that was set up with representatives from various trade schools and Graco HR staff. This, combined with donuts and sodas, ended the interactive tour on a memorable note for the teens from Minneapolis Public Schools. Graco Inc. accomplished greatness with the youth, conveying a sense of interest, high levels of skill development, innovation and pride, and showed various career paths available for a future employee at Graco. It could be heard by several youth, post tour, as they entered their school bus, “This would be a cool place to work.”

Cool, indeed.

The Star and Tribune also recorded moments from this tour. You can find that story by following the link HERE.

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