The Craftsman with Character curriculum evolved in response to a crisis. For Edgerton Gear, Inc. and other hi-tech manufacturing companies, a search for new, skilled employees has been fruitless. Placing an advertisement for job openings always results in applicants with no prior experience or understanding of what our skilled positions require.
We decided to turn to our local high school to actively recruit potential employees. Fortunately, Edgerton, Wisconsin is a small town of 5,000 residents with a great school system. Over the course of a year in conversations with Dr. Dennis Pauli, our district superintendent, Dr. Mark Coombs, our high school principal, and Joe Mink, a technical education teacher, a strategy was developed to link high school students with real world manufacturing companies. We need future journeymen machinists, and high school students need jobs when they graduate. Recognizing that not all kids are meant to attend a four-year university, the time had come to reintroduce the trades as a viable and worthwhile career choice. However, we didn’t just need machinists. We needed machinists with virtuous character.
As we have often said here at Edgerton Gear, “You can teach skills, but you can’t teach character.” This curriculum puts this to the test. Can character be taught? Or is it something that is caught? As an older journeyman machinist from one of our customers recently reminded us, values can be written on the walls and talked about until we’re blue in the face, but if they are not modelled, they will never be caught. Young people need to see these values in action to make a conscious choice to make them their own. With the aid of a shop full of mentors, this curriculum is rooted in the belief that character is both taught and caught with the emphasis on caught!