Penning manufacturing’s future

Author Terry M. Iverson
March 19, 2024 - 01:00pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: This month’s Lead Angle is written by Terry M. Iverson, an industry veteran who has devoted his long career to machine tool distributor and rebuilder Iverson & Company in Des Plaines, Illinois. He is also the founder of CHAMPION Now, a nonprofit organization on a mission to change the way American manufacturing is perceived in our nation. He’s also written two books to help that effort: “Finding America’s Greatest Champion” and “Inspiring Champions in Advanced Manufacturing.”

How can we get more young people introduced to manufacturing earlier in the game? This is a question that I have pondered countless times over my 44 years working in this industry. Too many do not know what manufacturing is.

In search of an answer, I have given numerous presentations to high school students, mentored many young people in high school and in college programs. These efforts didn’t begin to answer that question.

Camp Champ
Terry Iverson provides a tabletop milling overview to a high school mentor prior to the CAMP CHAMP event held in June 2023 at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois. To better understand how well received the event was, click here to read a thank you letter written by Frank Holthouse, director of careers for Leyden High School District 212.

Not long after I founded CHAMPION Now, I decided to produce a machining camp at a public school in Florida that I learned had a large number of students not headed to college. These students were in desperate need of an alternate path to a good paying career. While the camp was a big hit, boy did it cost me big time: $10,000 in rigging, freight, materials, and shirts—and, by the way, that didn’t cover the cost of the CNC machine tool itself or my week away from work.

Then it hit me that small table top CNC machines might be the answer to bring machining to high school and middle school students. No expensive freight or rigging costs! But it had to be a pre-programmed “turnkey solution” readily available to anyone willing to champion a camp in their community. That is essentially how CAMP CHAMP came to be.

Having spent the past year developing and fine-tuning this inspirational and educational program, I’d like to share what I consider to be the key elements that make CAMP CHAMP a win for our future manufacturing workforce.

First, we invite high school students to mentor local middle school students during a CAMP CHAMP event. They run the machines while mentoring middle school students, who in upcoming years will attend the very same school their mentors are attending.

We focus on manufacturing something relevant to all involved in the camp—a pen. At completion of the camp, each middle schooler carts home a wooden pen, one they witnessed being machined and that they helped assemble. The pen is put into a case adorned with a personalized nameplate that they again witnessed being laser engraved.

Our hope?  As the camp ends, each young student goes home to report to their parents about the cool camp they attended with an awesome high school mentor. They are told about the pen manufacturing process.

If and when mom and dad ask how they can learn more about manufacturing careers, a book titled “Inspiring Champions in Advanced Manufacturing” can help. I wrote this book to help kickstart conversations about potential career options between parents and their children, and to ensure that manufacturing opportunities are included in those discussions.

Based on the positive feedback we’ve received from CAMP CHAMP events we’ve held in the Chicago area over the past year, we’re on the right track. And my hope is to make this educational program nationally available to others. Please reach out to me if you would like to learn more about what it takes — labor, time and money — to hold a CAMP CHAMP event. 

Related Glossary Terms

  • computer numerical control ( CNC)

    computer numerical control ( CNC)

    Microprocessor-based controller dedicated to a machine tool that permits the creation or modification of parts. Programmed numerical control activates the machine’s servos and spindle drives and controls the various machining operations. See DNC, direct numerical control; NC, numerical control.

  • lead angle

    lead angle

    Angle between the side-cutting edge and the projected side of the tool shank or holder, which leads the cutting tool into the workpiece.


Iverson & Co.

Terry M. Iverson of Iverson & Company and CHAMPION Now can be reached via email at