ROCKFORD, IL-Grants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 are now available to not-for-profit organizations and educational institutions capable of offering overnight or day camp experiences in summer 2009 that introduce young people to careers in manufacturing and engineering.

The grants are a collaborative effort between the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Foundation (FMAF) and the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation (NBTF), founded by John Ratzenberger. The actor, who is best known as Cliff on NBC’s Cheers, is a champion of American manufacturing. His charitable organization, NBTF, is dedicated to introducing young people to the joys of tinkering, inspiring the next generation of skilled manual artists, engineers and inventors. The FMA Foundation is an educational, research and charitable organization that promotes metal forming and fabricating technology in manufacturing.

The purpose of the manufacturing camps is to provide a positive, hands-on experience so young people will consider manufacturing as a future career option. Camps must target young people between 12 and 16 years old. Preference will be given to organizations serving minority populations. The application deadline is Dec. 12, 2008.

“There is a demographic shift in the U.S. work force caused by retiring baby boomers, and the manufacturing sector is already feeling the impact,” according to Ratzenberger. “There is an ever-increasing demand for highly skilled professionals who can design, program and operate technology.”

“I can think of no enterprise more worthy than one devoted to inspiring the next generation of engineers, builders and manufacturers. I am proud to be a partner with FMA and know that with each child who attends one of our camps or pursues a career in manufacturing, we are rebuilding America's foundation one tinkerer at a time,” said Ratzenberger.

“We’re making an investment in the work force of tomorrow,” said Terrence Egan, director of FMAF. “This is critical to the economy of the cities where the camps occur and to the nation in general.”

Suggested curriculum for a week-long manufacturing camp might include a day or two of introduction to CAD software, a day or two in a fabrication shop or training facility, and a day of touring regional manufacturing facilities.

Grant funds may be used for expenses related to curriculum development and instruction, as well as direct expenses such as housing, meals, transportation and supplies. Expenses related to the purchase of software or other capital expenditures do not qualify.

Grant recipients will be named at the Metal Matters 2009 executive summit, a three-day conference sponsored by FMA and The Tube & Pipe Association Intl. (TPA), March 25-27, 2009.

More information and the grant application are available online atwww.fma-foundation. org. Questions can be directed to (888) 394-4362, or[email protected]

The camps target youth at the critical level of secondary education, exposing them to math, science and engineering principles, and giving them opportunities to see the technology being used in industry and the high level of skills that will be required from the workforce.

“These camps provide youth with the exposure to vocational and technical trades that no longer exist in all public education systems,” added Egan. “Inspiring youth to consider these trades will have a positive effect on graduation rates, increase the chance for them to earn a living wage, and create a more qualified work force and community development in impoverished areas.”