I look for chances to speak to students; middle school, high school and college, about careers in manufacturing. I typically leave time for questions. I also get some indications from back and forth banter in my presentations. Still, the best opportunity for insight on my message delivery is from reports and correspondence. A few teachers/instructors have provided me their students’ reports on my presentation or directed their students to send thank you notes.
The thank you notes are typically less helpful. I believe students know that they will end up in my hands. As such they are always pleasant. Their comments do help me formulate an idea of what concepts they grasped and what I may not have been clear about. They also illuminate an emphasis that I made that was unintentional or confusing. They do typically lack depth though.
I find the most helpful feedback occurs when the students write a paper/report on my presentation to be turned into their teacher/professor. The students are typically quite honest in the assessment, of both the speaker and the topic. From their remarks I can definitely glean their sentiment regarding the subject, whether it was engineering careers, manufacturing careers, or general business and interpersonal skills usage.
Highlights from my student feedback to assist others that are presenting:
It does help to draw analogies from business to things they can relate to, like a production assembly line to having their sandwich made at Subway
The use of videos (short) as part of the presentation, it appears many more students these days have become visual learners, perhaps the result of gaming and social media. They do like YouTube videos and regard them as a credible source
With few exceptions, (i.e. summer jobs), today’s students have no idea what takes place within a manufacturing company. Although conceptually, many have a visual of a 1950’s assembly line. Even college students do not recognize the indirect career opportunities like Purchasing, Production Control, Shipping, Human Resources.
In essence, few students have questioned where the everyday items they use come from. The happenings prior to these items being on store shelves is not a part of their world and are not all that inquisitive about it.
On the upside, practically all students find “pulling back the curtain” on modern manufacturing interesting. Most perceptions of videos showing modern manufacturing floors and equipment include awestruck.
Of all the feedback I’ve received, only one student (college) called me boring. So while that is still something to improve on, considering the audience I find that a plus! It also reassures me that my daughters, who’ve shared the same sentiment, were also in the minority.
So I strongly encourage industry professionals to get in front of students as much as possible. I also suggest asking for feedback from the student audience and if possible, indirect and in written format.