Kids around the metro are celebrating National Manufacturing Week by seeing some of the career opportunities available to them. Schools took groups of students on tours of local manufacturing companies Thursday.
Company owners say they not only want to show the kids what they can do with their education, but also encourage them to join the workforce in those fields.
“I don’t think we do a very good job in general in America talking about making things and the skills and the talent that that takes,” said David Younge, one of the owners at Progressive Stamping in Oklahoma City.
Employing more than 130,000 Oklahoma workers, the manufacturing industry is one of the largest economic drivers in the state, from major corporations to small businesses. Progressive Stamping was one of the stops on Thursday’s tours, where they produce metal components for things like slot machines and hinging shelves.
“I really learned about just how in-depth manufacturing goes,” said Dove Science Academy 10th grader Kenneth Halstied. “The precision and the level of skill you need for it is really amazing.”
The owners at Progressive say they need young, bright minds to usher in the new era of manufacturing, and high school students who are already involved in STEM programs are the perfect candidates.
“Our average age around here is 54, so in the next ten years we could have a complete turnover in staff based on averages, so we really want to try to recruit younger people,” said Younge.
The kids got to show off their adaptability on their tour, creating working machines from a few spare parts. They head back to class with another perspective on career opportunities, as entry-level manufacturing jobs typically start well above minimum wage.
“I want to be a genetic engineer, so some of the general skills will apply. You’re still going to have to work with computers. That’s a skill everyone needs nowadays, working a lot with machines,” said Halstied.
Manufacturing Week ends Friday with the official Manufacturing Day, when hundreds of local middle school students will compete in the 9th Annual Engineering Challenge at Francis Tuttle’s Pre-Engineering Academy. The teams will complete multiple design experiments to win prizes.