156: Clash of the Grinders

Today, we’re exploring the future of skilled trades and we’re doing this largely by speaking to the next generation of skilled tradespeople and the folks that our training and enabling them. From students to instructors, this episode includes a series of 5 interviews with folks that are part of 3M’s upcoming series Clash of the Grinders: Student Edition, a high-stakes grinding and welding competition that pits soon-to-be pros against each other to find the most talented up-and-comers in the skilled trades.

Throughout the series, you’ll get to see the competition first hand as these trades leaders face off in welding and cutting challenges, but it’s more than just the competition. You’ll see emerging trends that these folks will face in their careers, and how new innovations are helping them work more efficiently and sustainably. Plus, the winner receives a game changing $10,000 scholarship sponsored by FANUC.

In this podcast, you’re going to get to know a couple of the students that are part of this competition and you’ll hear how their careers took them to these new roles as tradespeople that they’re stoked to move into. You’ll also hear from an instructor, how they’re continuing to evolve their curriculum for the modern student and skilled worker, and not to mention the folks that are creating the certifications for emerging technology skills. And finally, you’ll hear from a global robotics & automation leader at 3M and learn how they’re inspiring curiosity and improving educational outcomes for everyone that wants an opportunity to pursue skilled trades and STEM education.

Overall, this episode is a showcase of many of the different parties involved in developing our future workforce, from educators, to corporations, to – most importantly – the students themselves.

You’ll hear from:
  • Ryan Spivey, Student at Gateway Technical
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, Student at Richard Daily College
  • Todd Bridigum, Instructor, Welding and Metal Fab at Minneapolis College
  • Roger Tadajewski, Executive Director of NC3
  • Scott Barnett, Global Robotics & Automation Application Leader at 3M. 


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3 Quick Things from this Episode

  1. While it’ll still be important to have practical skills like welding, it’s likely that skilled workers will transition into doing this through machinery rather than their bare hands.    
  2. Succeeding in manufacturing isn’t just about those practical skills. Soft skills and collaboration are also important because that’s what employers are looking for. 
  3. Finding a skill that you can be passionate about is so important to help you learn and grow and address the challenges faced in this industry. 

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Tweetable Quotes

  • “It’s really important that students know that if training opportunities come up within a company to take advantage of that and learn as much as they can throughout.” – Todd Bridigum 
  • “The knowledge of what it takes to make a good weld or to grind properly is still incredibly important, but rather than doing that with their hands, they’re going to be doing it with machinery and equipment.” – Scott Barnett 
  • “Welding really stood out. I know you can make a really good living off of it and people need welders.” – Ryan Spivey 

Please Scroll Down for Recommended Resources from this Episode

3M’s Clash of the Grinders: Student Edition is a high-stakes grinding and welding competition that pits soon to be pros against each other to find the next best in the skilled trades. The top winner will receive a whopping $10,000 scholarship sponsored by FANUC. The series drops on the 3M Abrasives YouTube channel starting October 17, 2023.

What We Discuss in this Episode

  • Why our guests were drawn to welding 
  • How they see their careers evolving 
  • The role of automation and tech in manufacturing 
  • Why soft skills are equally as important 
  • The future of skilled work 
  • The role of tech in the industry 
  • Advice for young people joining the industry  

Recommended Resources

  • 3M Abrasives, offers a full line of abrasives including quick change discs, flap wheels, cartridge rolls, fiber discs and non-woven wheels, brushes, flap discs, and more
  • NC3, the National Coalition of Certification Centers is a value-driven organization and the future model for Career and Technical Education, creating highly-skilled, job-ready professionals through a growing network of educational partners and global industry leaders

Connect with Todd, Scott, and Roger 

Todd Bridigum | Scott Barnett | Roger Tadajewski