Companies host industry tours celebrating Manufacturing Day

Published 12:56 pm Thursday, October 21, 2021

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Three Shelby County companies, along with Jefferson State’s Shelby-Hoover Welding Lab, opened their doors on Friday, Oct. 15 to more than 90 high school seniors as part of an effort to showcase career opportunities in manufacturing.

MacLean Power Systems, ProcessBarron and Vulcan Steel partnered with 58 INC., Shelby County’s economic development corporation, and The Shelby County Chamber to host tours.

Students from Thompson High, Pelham High and Calera High schools visited companies to see firsthand what careers are available after graduation if they choose to enter the workforce immediately.

The event was held in celebration of National Manufacturing Day, which is designed to change people’s perception about today’s industrial environment and draw attention to the opportunities that exist.

“Manufacturing Day provides an excellent platform for encouraging student exposure to careers in manufacturing, but it is critical that we offer more and more opportunities for students to see and experience firsthand the jobs that exist in all sectors so they can make informed decisions about their future,” 58 INC. Director of Development Melody Whitten said.

Prior to the event, TSCC and 58 INC. created a package for utilization in the classroom to better prepare students for this experience, which included pre- and post-lesson plans, information on each company, examples of median wages and samples of career pathways based on modeling created at the state level.

“Going on industry tours allowed me to gain a better understanding of the manufacturing process and how everything comes together,” Calera High School senior Chauncey Callins said. “I believe this gave me and my classmates a sense of relief that there’s always other options to explore and choose from, despite whether or not we may have any formal schooling after high school. This experience was something that I will carry with me for a very long time.”

ProcessBarron Director of Human Resources Clint Kelly said community engagement is a priority at the company.

“At ProcessBarron, we think it is vitally important to engage with and support our local communities,” he said. “We do this in a number of ways, but we really enjoy engaging with young people who are looking for a career path. We think it’s important to show people that there is a great alternative to a four-year university degree. There are a lot of good paying career opportunities right here in this community.”

ProcessBarron Director of Marketing Marcy Miller said the student visit on Oct. 15 was beneficial to all involved.

“It can be difficult to learn about all the amazing career opportunities in manufacturing, especially those related to the unique trade skills that are the foundation of what we do at ProcessBarron,” Miller said. “Touring our facilities is eye-opening; seeing the innovation and talent of the men and women that create and maintain our large, customized industrial equipment allowed the students to correlate how their passions or skills can be applied to something real.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to host and spend time with these students,” Miller continued. “Thanks also goes out to 58 INC. and The Shelby County Chamber for encouraging these young people to connect with their strengths, explore opportunities and pursue the career development path that is right for them.”

The leadership of 58 INC. and The Shelby County Chamber have prioritized a business-driven workforce readiness approach as a part of the Shelby One-Next Level Up campaign, launched in December 2017.

Career exposure at local firms with Shelby County students is a major component of this initiative.

All students ended the tour at Jefferson State’s Shelby-Hoover campus with dedicated time to explore the welding lab and welding programming.

Students rotated throughout various stations and were able to see a plasma table demonstration with Brody Scott, the Shelby-Hoover campus welding instructor.

Students were given a cut-out with their school’s name that was made with the plasma table, and based on survey feedback, this station was a hit.

Jefferson State welcomed TransfrVR’s Joe Massaro to provide exposure to training in manufacturing that can be attained through a virtual reality environment.

During this interactive session, students were able to explore the precision measurement in a virtual manufacturing setting.

Students rotated over to meet with Don Wilcher, the Manufacturing Technology Program chair and instructor who gave a demonstration of electronics and basic programming logic.

Students observed the process for making connections, and were even able to assist.

Danny Taylor, a Jefferson State welding instructor, discussed important topics with each student, such as equipment utilized for welding, different types of welds the Lincoln Electric welders are capable of producing, gases required and safety equipment that must be used.  Students observed the various types of equipment used in the shop.

Andrew Stock, a current welding student, was available to discuss his progression in the welding program and the various options available for students.

Stock is pursuing an associate’s degree in welding.

“This day was much-needed and appreciated for my students,” Pelham High School Career Coach Michelle LeSueur said. “To have these companies open up their work spaces, tour them around their facility and take their time answering questions from the students was just so special to witness.

“I was so impressed with the time and detail devoted to making our students feel welcome and opening their eyes to a potential career in the manufacturing and industry sector,” she continued. “If not for the field trip, most students would never know the opportunities available to them in these jobs.”

Vulcan Steel General Manager Colby Luzier said the company was excited to host students from the area interested in the industry.

“We feel an obligation to the community to show those students what the manufacturing field has to offer and hope we can assist directing them on a successful career path,” Luzier said. “We would be thrilled if some of them were future Vulcan teammates.”

The Shelby County Chamber welcomed feedback with a post survey students were able to take on Friday, to give their feedback right away as experience was fresh in their minds.

“Plans are in the works to host more students during the Spring 2022 semester,” said Pari Barzegari, vice president of community and career development with The Shelby County Chamber. “Career exposure is vital to all of our Shelby County students, and we are thankful to have so many community partners that are willing to open their doors to invite in our students and their questions.”