The Engineering Technology Academy strives to accelerate technical education for our students using hands-on experiential learning. While we stress this in our classroom settings, we also seek opportunities to connect our students with employers in the manufacturing industry. Beginning in March of 2018, EKL Machine Company (EKL) began a partnership with the Engineering Technology Academy for a Technical Training Initiative. In the first year, students visited EKL for training, which continued into the summer for two of our recent graduates. In addition, a collective of donors has generously made possible a computer numerical control (CNC) lathe workstation to West Catholic Prep, which will provide advanced manufacturing experience to all of our students.
EKL Machine Company (EKL), founded in 1979, is a high-precision tool manufacturing plant exclusively serving the canning industry and located in Bensalem, PA. Founded by Edward K. Lydon with only a manual lathe and a strong understanding of his client’s needs, EKL has grown to a 28,000 sq. ft. operation with state-of-the-art equipment and a diverse global client-base.
The canning industry is very unique, and training is often required of even the most experienced machinists. As such EKL is no stranger to workforce training partnerships. One method included training high school students from Swenson Skill Center, which produced many highly skilled toolmakers and mechanics. Juniors and senior ETA students recently got to meet two of those former Swenson trainees during a February visit to EKL. Jeff Schenk and Henry Wunderlich, both in their 30th year with EKL, practiced their machining craft while they were students at Swenson Skill Center (now Swenson Art and Technology). Jeff, now General Manager, and Henry were eager to share the benefits of their CTE experiences, and stressed the need for machinists who fundamentally understand design and vice-versa.
Dan Livezey, a 2009 graduate of Drexel University, is a another prime example. Dan’s educational background in Mechanical Engineering, particularly his focus on “Design and Manufacturing”, brought him to EKL as a co-op student. Dan is now in his 12th year with the company, and manages the Engineering and Research Development Team.
West Catholic Prep’s President, Paul Colistra, sees the partnership as an essential part of developing the right mindset for student success in the workforce. “Our students are thrilled to be gaining real-world job insight that will shape and bolster their careers.,” Colistra said. “They are excited to make the real-world connections between their classroom experiences and a respected industry leader such as EKL.”
Ed Lydon, President, EKL Machine Company, shares a similar sentiment in his vision for the pilot program with West Catholic. “We are happy to help these students apply their learning in a real manufacturing environment, and to increase their understanding of the possibilities involving technical education. Our TTI represents a continued effort to redefine the manufacturing industry as clean, high-tech and modernized, and to appeal to students who don’t traditionally hear about us.
Through the proposed TTI and the addition of a dedicated CNC lathe workstation at West Catholic Preparatory HS, EKL and other such donors remain steadfast in supporting the next generation of skilled designers and machinists. We hope to replicate this workplace-educational model, which provides access to a cutting-edge manufacturing facility as a natural extension of our teaching and workshop spaces. In the future, students who demonstrate proficiency in their design and machining projects will be considered for this type of hands-on, technical learning experience.