The Three Rivers Manufacturers’ Association and Joliet Junior College partnered to host local high school students, including those from Coal City, Minooka, Morris and Wilmington, as well as Grundy Area Vocational Center, as part of their fifth annual Manufacturing Day event.
About 750 students from 14 schools across Will and Grundy counties met with four dozen different organizations to learn more about careers in the manufacturing industry, according to a news release.
“This event was about companies reaching tomorrow’s workforce at an early age,” said Mike Brose, TRMA board chairman and plant manager for Flint Hills Resources. “We wanted to open their minds to the world of manufacturing and inspire them to take a path that will lead them to a rewarding and successful career.”
To that end, 48 manufacturing or related organizations came together to show students what they do; highlight science, technology and innovation in manufacturing; and draw attention to rewarding manufacturing careers.
Students played a “Manufacturing Jeopardy” game, participated in a STEM exposition staffed by manufacturers and related industries allowing students an up-close look at the science and technology that drives today’s manufacturing industry, and attended an opening session, highlighted by keynote speaker EJ Carrion, best-selling author and founder of CEO Student Success Agency.
“We appreciated the opportunity for our students to interact with our local industry and witness amazing and rewarding STEM careers available in their own backyard,” said Kenny Lee, superintendent of Minooka Community High School District 111. “Being able to partner with local industry is an important component of a successful educational program, and we are grateful to TRMA and JJC for providing this unique opportunity for our students.”
TRMA-JJC MFG DAY event is part of a nationwide effort by the National Association of Manufacturers to start a growing grassroots movement dedicated to overcoming the shared challenges facing manufacturers today. There are 2,507 MFG Day events planned in 2018.
According to the NAM, “taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.”
However, NAM’s research also indicated that over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled. This projection is not simply because American manufacturing is doing so well, rather their research identified a growing skills gap. Today’s modern manufacturing needs workers with higher skills – including technical and scientific skills – than are available.
According to NAM, “Right now, manufacturers in the U.S. have nearly 500,000 open positions, and the workforce crisis is only projected to get worse with the industry having to fill millions of open jobs in the coming years.”
JJC President Judy Mitchell said the college develops and supports opportunities such as MFG Day to give students hands-on opportunities to explore, learn and discuss careers with the companies that will eventually hire them.
“It’s important to do more than simply talk to high school students about the importance of going to college or getting a degree. Helping students identify what their career is and connecting them to the right academic or career training program that will lead them to that career is what this is all about,” Mitchell said.
Manufacturers in Will and Grundy counties are vital to the economy; for every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.89 is added to the economy, according to the release. Manufacturers also recognize the value of quality education. Thus, engaging local students to explore manufacturing careers is not only a great business decision today, but it also ensures the future of our great local communities.