Seven middle school students arrived at Shape last week, most unaware of what we produce, but ready to take on a challenge.

FuturePrep’D is a program ran through Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, that challenges students to get out into the “real-world” and solve problems. Students from the area have the opportunity to learn more about local companies and test their problem solving skills. This is our second year and third session that we’ve held at Shape.

The students were challenged with finding a solution for a real Shape problem: How do we reduce the expenditure on gloves, without compromising safety?

Quickly after arriving the students learned firsthand what safety means here at Shape. They broke off into pairs to participate in a relay-style race that required them to dress in personal protective equipment (PPE) for different work areas.

The students didn’t waste any time getting started on their problem. They visited 172nd and 1835 to silently observe the glove exchange process. Additionally, they interviewed key associates to learn more about where the pain points were, including our glove supplier.

After a week of problem solving, they came up with a few great solutions and presented their findings in front of judges at Haworth and then a group of Shape associates on Friday.

Their solutions included:
• Personal accountability of glove inspection
• Easy/simple protocols (rotation-style morning huddles)
• Team leads and supervisors would take accountability on inspecting gloves
• Consistent communication and education, including temps

While the students were here they learned a lot about what we do and how much we value safety. One student said, “I enjoyed getting real-life experience of issues and problems that a company has. You tend to think, they [companies] will only have problems with one thing, but there’s a lot more than that.”

The students agreed that they all enjoyed working with each other and were very thankful for all of the help associates provided them throughout the week.

“Participating in this program is another way to give back to our community and build stronger connections among our team,” said Patty Weed, account financial manager. “Real-life work isn’t much like their classes at school. The sooner students can get out and experience project-based learning, the better problem solvers they’ll be when they enter the workforce.”

Thank you to all of the associates who took time out of their week to make this event successful for the students!