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Metal Finishing And The Fourth Grade

February - 2009
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By: Leah Greene

As the economy continues to contract, school systems across the country are having to tighten their belts a couple of notches. Our home state of North Carolina is no exception - we are expecting a 3 billion dollar deficit in our education budget. In Rutherford County, NC, the headquarters of Finishing Talk, County School Funding dropped 3 million dollars between 2007 and 2008. 2009 is expected to be even lower, and the fact that a huge percent of the funding is being spent on the construction of new schools only deepens the financial predicament. It has gotten to the point that staff cuts have taken the place of supply cuts - an all too familiar scenario for many businesses and organizations these past months.

Because of this harsh reality, schools are aggressively seeking new sources of funding. This issue recently hit home with us when a charter school in our community approached our sister company, Finishing Market, seeking a local source for surplus lab equipment. During the subsequent meeting between Finishing Market and Thomas Jefferson Classical Grammar School (a quick and easy appointment to arrange down here in 'Small Town Friendly') we learned that the school was seeking the equipment for an Introduction to Chemistry curriculum they wanted to introduce to their fourth grade students shortly after the holiday break. But the elementary school's plans to introduce these young minds to the wonderful world of science was out of reach due to lack of funding for even the smallest of lab items, such as litmus paper.

It instantly dawned on us that this problem could be transformed into a wonderful opportunity; not only could we help out a school in need, but we could initiate an outreach project that utilized the educational branch of our metal finishing enterprise, the Surface Finishing Academy, in an effort to teach the students about our industry.  In addition to providing them with all the equipment necessary to build a first class chemistry department to enhance their science lessons, we could initiate a collaboration - by this point, our readers know of our affinity to this word - with the purpose of developing mutual understanding between the metal finishing industry and the public education system.

What benefit do we gain from this liaison? Well, to put it plainly - a stake in the future of our industry. According to the annual 'Fabricating Update' survey ( among the top concerns expressed by metal fabricators in 2008 was the shortage of skilled labor in their industry. Imagine what the labor force will be like ten years from now if something is not done to raise the next generation's awareness of metal finishing. For this very reason, it is increasingly important  that we take action now by educating our youth.

Our end of the bargain looks something like this: we agree to help provide the materials and equipment needed to assemble a top notch science program. What  originally started with a few surplus beakers, test tubes, flasks, and pipettes has now developed into a partnership where we've pledged our efforts to try and source as many of the supplies, equipment, and other educational materials as we can. These items run the gamut from a full on 'States of Matter' Delta Science Module Kit  to UV sensitive paper, oil spill absorbing polymers, and even a tub full of geodes. In return for our support, the school has agreed to distribute the NASF brochure "What is Metal Finishing?" to each of the 4th grade students, schedule a day for us to give a presentation on metal finishing and metallurgy, and make sure that all of the students leave the fourth grade knowing the importance of Metal Finishing in their everyday life.

As the project progresses, we will evaluate our time spent vs. our accomplishments and monitor the progression towards are goals. We will continue to document them here in our editorials over the course of the year. Be sure to keep an eye out for updates and posts about it on the Finishing Talk Bulletin Boards, as well as our quarterly IPTV show - Finishing Talk Live ( It is our hope that you all will learn and benefit as much as we do from the data and experience we garner from launching this outreach project; who knows, maybe you'll have the opportunity to implement a similar strategy in your community one day, too.