Manufacturing Preview Day sparks career interest for NKY students

In an effort to increase interest in manufacturing careers among youth and adults, NKY industry leaders hosted open house events throughout October as a part of national Manufacturing Preview Days. Local attendees got a behind-the-scenes look at the world of modern manufacturing.
On October 7, industrial automation company Balluff, Inc. in Florence opened their doors to approximately 200 students (elementary age through college) and adults.
Brian Hedges is the Customer Training Manager at Balluff. The focus of the event, he said, was to help get children and adults excited about automation. This was the second year in a row that Balluff has participated in Manufacturing Day.
“Our hope was to see an increase in awareness for job opportunities in manufacturing and an increase in interest of these kids and adults actually going into manufacturing as a career,” said Hedges.
On the same day, Skilcraft LLC also hosted its second open-house event at the company’s sheet metal manufacturing plant in Burlington. Twelve students from Walton Verona High School attended that event.
“This year we provided a tour of our aerospace division where we have invested millions in high tech equipment over the last year,” said Tina Taylor, who heads up HR Elements, a Skilcraft partner. Taylor helped organize this year’s Manufacturing Day event. “This division has grown significantly, and we try to recruit in the local community so it is important to get the word out about growth opportunities.”
Taylor said that following the tour, most attendees expressed interest in pursuing a welding career.
“This is exactly what we are hoping to achieve by participating in National Manufacturing Day — the opportunity for students to see how the technology being used in today's manufacturing environments is so different than manufacturing ten or 20 years ago.”  
Bringing women and girls to manufacturing careers
Local machine tool manufacturer Mazak Corporation put a different spin on their Manufacturing Day involvement, focusing specifically on the types of manufacturing careers available to women. Mazak’s Making It Real - Girls in Manufacturing event took place October 26 and was designed to introduce female middle and high school students to a career field long dominated by men. The event featured campus tours, hands-on demonstrations, student workshops and a unique “Women in Manufacturing” panel discussion.
More than 150 female students from Kenton Co. Academies of Innovation and Technology, Holmes Middle School, Cooper High School, RA Jones Middle School and Gallatin County Schools attended the event.
The event was organized with the help of the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition (AMWDC), which is funded by Partners for a Competitive Workforce, the NKY Chamber, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, Skyward and the Duke Energy Foundation. Dream It Do It- OKI provided funding for Making it Real - Girls in Manufacturing event.

Dream It Do It- OKI also recently kicked off a What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? video competition, in which middle-school students were invited to submit a 60- to 90-second video illustrating the world of modern manufacturing. A goal of the competition is to expose tech-minded youth to potential careers with one of Northern Kentucky’s many innovative manufacturing companies.
Ten Northern Kentucky companies are participating in the video contest, which culminates in a judging competition early next year. Winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony featuring industry and education leaders, dignitaries and elected officials.

Elizabeth Schneider is currently enrolled in Mazak's four-year apprenticeship program. She participated in the Women in Manufacturing discussion panel at the company's October 26th Manufacturing Day event. Here, she discusses how she became interested in manufacturing careers and the support she's received in learning more about the industry.

How did you prepare for a career in manufacturing?
Going through high school, I didn't know I would be working in manufacturing so I didn't exactly prepare. However, growing up, I was always helping my dad work on cars and around the house. I always loved figuring out how things work, and that has helped me in manufacturing.

Were there any particular people or experiences that encouraged you in pursuit of this career?
A really good friend of mine suggested that I apply for the position at Mazak. He saw in me the potential that it took to be a successful apprentice.

Do you believe it's important to encourage women to work in the manufacturing industry?
Of course! It's such a great environment to work in — not to mention great pay and benefits.

What words of encouragement do you have for other females interested in manufacturing?
Believe in yourself. Just because this is a male-dominated field doesn't mean you can't excel here.

Manufacturing Day is co-produced by Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl., National Association of Manufacturers, the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) and the Manufacturing Institute. Nationally, 2,648 Manufacturing Day events were planned for 2016, with 33 in the state of Kentucky.
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