Skilled Trade Through the Generations0
Skilled trades have always been a stabilizing economic force throughout Kalamazoo’s history. Luckily, it is a local business’ mission to ensure that this trend continues for generations to come.
Established in 1901, Humphrey Products (Humphrey) is known as a leading producer of pneumatic products from valves to pressure regulators, serving industries across the world.
“Our products are sold to industrial markets and business-to-business companies,” explained David Maurer, Humphrey’s President and CFO. “We impact our community by providing employment and maintaining our headquarters in Kalamazoo.”
The creation of manufacturing jobs is not the only way that Humphrey strengthens the community. Through a variety of internship programs, the organization also provides the students of Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) with an advanced manufacturing education.
This program allows KPS sophomores, juniors, and seniors to work alongside Humphrey’s employees and gain workplace experience.
According to Maurer, the EFE partnership educated several of Humphrey’s current employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than 25 years.
“We typically extend the co-op into a job offer before the students graduate from high school,” he said.
While many participants begin working at Humphrey after graduation, some students finish the EFE partnership and decide to pursue a degree in engineering.
“It is bittersweet as we would like to keep some of them as machinists,” said Maurer. “That being said, we are thrilled to see them pursuing a technical degree, like engineering.”
For individuals who choose to pursue a technical degree, Humphrey offers a summer internship through Western Michigan University’s (WMU) engineering and integrated supply management majors. In this program, interns participate in day-to-day activities as well as projects that will give them manufacturing-based business experience.
Much like the EFE partnership, many of the WMU interns eventually land jobs in Humphrey’s engineering department.
Internship opportunities like these are a great way to generate manufacturing talent but Humphrey knows that more can be done. As a member of the Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium (AMCC), Humphrey meets with other local businesses to find long-term solutions that will improve the manufacturing industry.
“Members of the AMCC meet at Kalamazoo Valley Community College to talk about the challenges that are plaguing the area’s manufacturing companies,” Maurer said. “Our goal is to partner with education to find a path to improve the talent pipeline.”
In addition to these initiatives, Humphrey also participates in the Manufacturing Pipeline Program, a paid mentoring and summer internship initiative that is offered to KPS students through The Kalamazoo Promise.
For Maurer and the team at Humphrey, becoming so extensively involved with the professional development of students was a natural decision.
“Since KPS is the single largest school district within Kalamazoo County we really need to be engaged with the students,” Maurer said. “A resurgence of interest in technical, STEM, and advanced manufacturing is needed to fulfill the jobs that local manufacturers have available. Without KPS, we can’t fill these positions.”
Maurer hopes that these partnerships with KPS will continue to open students’ eyes to the possibilities that skilled trades can present.
“I’d like to get back to the understanding that skilled trades help stabilize our community,” he said. “We need to remember that captains of industry like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers did not have college degrees, but were able to find success and change our world.”