Two of the most pressing issues in our industry are the development of technology and finding the next generation of employees who will be using that technology to grow companies’ global competitiveness. The technology will come. Finding the next generation of industry employees will take actions and continued commitment from leaders at forging companies.

To foster relationships between the supply chain and universities interested in working with industry, the Forging Foundation has begun a series of Technology and Workforce Development Summits to engage local industry representatives and FIERF Magnet Schools to work collaboratively on relevant research and introduce students to careers in the forging industry.

In January, 13 industry representatives gathered on the campus of California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo to meet with faculty, staff and students and to tour lab facilities with the goals of developing research partnerships and a talent pipeline.  

Dr. Blair London, FIERF Magnet School Professor in the Department of Materials Engineering, encouraged us to focus on the future in a two-prong approach: generate buzz about forging technology to be on students’ radar; and commit to engage students through internships and on-campus projects. He shared six possible ways for industry to interact with students and faculty.

  • Senior project sponsorship – At Cal Poly, the senior project is a year-long capstone design project. The students work either individually or in a team on a project of interest to them. Industry-sponsored projects can take different forms. Some projects are funded ($5,000 suggested per project), and other projects may be supported by test samples or in-kind support from the industry. The deliverables include a detailed final report and presentation, plus an industry problem/issue gets solved.
  • Class presentation – Make a presentation about your organization’s products, operations and technology to a regular materials engineering class. This is a chance to engage with interested students with significant time for Q&A. Most faculty would welcome this opportunity.
  • Internships – There is no downside to internships for forging companies. These represent a minimal investment on the industry’s part. In addition, they provide a summer-long interview process with outstanding results for the company. Meanwhile, students gain valuable experience and bring the buzz back to the university.
  • Plant tour plus – This is not just a typical plant tour. These students are the next generation of employees, and they should be treated as if all of them would want a job at your company. The plant tours need to be detailed, meaningful and end with a small giveaway to the students (hat, t-shirt, water bottle, etc.). A plant tour can literally change a student’s career path – they really have no idea how interesting forging is until they can see it in action. 
  • On-campus talk – Reach out to a broader audience through a campus club or society of interested students with a presentation to talk about your processes and products. The better the presentation/interaction, the better the buzz.
  • Research project with faculty – This would be a multiyear effort to solve a significant company problem that may align with funding from the Forging Foundation.

Dr. Trevor Harding, department chair of materials engineering, expressed his thanks for the group’s interest in working with Cal Poly and noted that industry plays an important role in Cal Poly’s future.

The last FIERF Technology and Workforce Development Summit was held on the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 4. For more information on upcoming summits, please contact Karen Lewis at or 216-862-6967.