By Mikayla Ridi, Program Manager, NextFlex
FlexFactor began in 2016 as a small idea with big hopes for future generations. In the three years since its launch, FlexFactor has grown from an 8-student pilot at one San Jose High School to having already served over 3,500 students in four geographic locations around the country. This incredible progress wouldn’t have happened without the passion and cooperation of a multitude of players – schools, teachers, industry partners and colleges – who are all committed to inspiring students every day.
FlexFactor, NextFlex’s marquee workforce development program, launched its fourth year on August 20 at Branham High School’s Project Lead the Way (San Jose, CA) senior capstone class. Although these students have been highly committed to engineering throughout their high school career, they hadn’t yet had the opportunities that FlexFactor presented.
After the initial kickoff session in their classroom, these lucky students toured Jabil’s Blue Sky Center in San Jose. Following that, they enjoyed a panel discussion hosted by Jabil employees that delved into modern manufacturing techniques and applications, igniting the students’ interest in the education pathways, skills and abilities required for potentially working at a company like Jabil someday. The students eagerly questioned the panelists and heard first-hand accounts about educational backgrounds, internships and work experiences that propelled them to their current roles.
The students’ glimpse into the “Day in the Life” of a Jabil worker is something they would not have gotten in regular classroom work. Through FlexFactor, they experienced the work environment firsthand, and thus it was brought to life for them. Through the exchange with the Jabil employees, they could envision themselves as confident contributors to an important organization, whether their interests lie in marketing, engineering, finance, or wherever their passions lead them. The takeaway was a deeper appreciation for what their future career choices might be.
The second FlexFactor kickoff that happened recently was with the mechatronics class at Metro Ed (San Jose, CA), a school that focuses on career technical education for high school students and adults. These students visited Fetch Robotics in San Jose, a five-year-old company that manufactures autonomous driving robots that improve delivery times in warehouse applications. Not only did the students get a tour, but they were escorted by the company COO! Getting facetime with any company COO is a rare opportunity these days, and the students made the most of the opportunity by asking questions that highlighted their interests in robotics.
FlexFactor students not only get a glimpse into what modern manufacturing is all about, they begin to see themselves fitting into the advanced manufacturing sector in the future. In upcoming checkpoints, the students will visit a local college and hear a lecture in entrepreneurship, further opening their minds to the potential that they are empowered to help solve the world’s problems. They will then be challenged to work in teams to conceptualize a device that solves a particular problem and will develop business models to bring that product to market. After four weeks of research, they will be ready to pitch their product idea to a panel of industry experts. The experience that students get with FlexFactor is unique in that it drives them to think deeply about the problems that touch their lives and empowers them to see themselves actively participating in a potential solution.
Seeing the transformation happen in these students, from being “thinkers” to “doers,” is what gets me up and out the door each day. It’s amazing to see FlexFactor going nationwide, and who knows what great ideas that our FlexFactor students dream up might actually become products one day?Back to all news