- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
America’s manufacturing workforce is aging toward retirement at a time when the demand for such jobs is rising, but some Butler County students say they may be the ones to help fill the need.
As part of national Manufacturing Day, nearly two dozen Edgewood Middle School students toured the FESTO manufacturing facility in Mason and got some up-close looks at what a skilled manufacturing job looks like and what it might mean to their futures.
“I’m really into engineering because I love how to build things hands on and it’s just really interesting making stuff for all these different countries and places,” said Edgewood seventh-grader Jalynn Henson after she toured some FESTO’s expansive building next to Interstate 71.
The international FESTO is a leading manufacturer of pneumatic and electromechanical systems, components, and controls for process control and factory automation solutions.
Company officials — who were joined by Butler Tech Superintendent Jon Graft and U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson (R-Troy) — provided plenty of career information for the students to consider.
“About 3 million jobs will be available in skilled manufacturing in the next 10 years,” Graft told students. “But 2.5 million of those jobs will go unfilled because everyone has been sold on this idea that you have to go to college.”
“It’s easy for a child to imagine a career as a doctor, firefighter or a teacher, because they are exposed to these careers pretty frequently. How often do kids get to see what really goes on inside a modern factory?” Graft said.
“Manufacturing Day is all about pulling back that curtain and letting students see the sophisticated technology inside modern manufacturing environments and meeting the highly-skilled workers who run them,” he said.
Davidson, who is a former manufacturing executive, echoed the day’s message of “the promise of the industry” for America’s future.
“This is vital for our (nation’s) growth. Everybody I talk to — from small businesses all the way up to (Chairwoman) Janet Yellen at the U.S. Federal Reserve — gets how important it is to get a workforce. Our growth rate as country is dependent upon having workforce ready students that can go out there and meet the (labor) demand and have the skills to keep our economy growing,” said Davidson.
Bill Poehner, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teacher at Edgewood Middle School’s Butler Tech program, said he appreciated the real-life exposure to manufacturing provided by private sector partners such as FESTO.
“In addition to the classroom experience, Edgewood works with several local companies, including FESTO, Metal Coaters, AK Steele, Butler Rural Electric, 4 Star Mechanical, Thyssenkrupp Bilstein and others, who allow our students the opportunity to see manufacturing facilities first-hand,” Poehner said.
“This expands our students’ understanding and allows them to make informed decision on career opportunities,” he said.
“Through continued classroom opportunities and interactive field experiences, our students are provided with a clear understanding of the career opportunities available in manufacturing so they can plan and prepare for their future,” said Poehner.