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For an advanced manufacturing system to function efficiently, all workers must know how to identify problems within their departments and develop solutions for them. Today's employers expect technicians entering the workplace to possess "soft skills." These include the ability to analyze a problem logically and formulate a solution, but also the ability to work in teams and to effectively communicate with others.This lesson uses real-world scenarios to encourage critical thinking and improve problem-solving skills. The lesson begins with an invitation to explore the many different areas and career paths within advanced manufacturing. Following a brief small-group discussion on how critical thinking and problem solving are used in advanced manufacturing fields, students review a handout that lays out some guidelines for how to approach problem solving. Students watch a video about a manufacturing supervisor, and then begin to relate problem solving to other workplace scenarios. Then, through two short activities, they have a chance to demonstrate their ability to think critically. An optional extension activity has students apply what they've learned by researching an industry of their choice and assessing the problems that are likely to come up. Students prepare a report that includes their analysis of the problems, probable causes, and a possible solution to one of them. They then present their report to the rest of the class.
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