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Middletown teens get rare, insider’s tour of AK Steel

High school students in Middletown have either seen it, ridden around it, know someone who works in it or have at least heard of AK Steel, but on Friday some of them got a rare insider’s tour of the massive industrial complex.

Students from Middletown’s private Marshall High School saw the inner workings of one of America’s largest steel plants, including near the searing blast furnace where raw iron ore is melted into volcanic-like liquid on its way to being processed into steel.

MORE: Middletown’s Marshall High School adding programs and students 

The tour was a joint effort between the alternative high school, which enrolls more than 200 students, and one of Middletown’s largest employers, which is increasing its outreach to area schools so students better understand job and career opportunities at the plant, which employs more than 2,500 workers.

Students from Middletown’s private Marshall High School got a rare insider’s tour Friday, Nov. 16, of AK Steel. (Nick Graham)

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AK Steel — and other Butler County area industries — mirror America’s growing need for qualified workers to fill high-paying, manufacturing jobs that are increasingly going unfilled.

If the bright, lava-like flows of sparking steel didn’t light up the students’ career imaginations, learning about the $19 per hour starting pay and the possibility of making more $70,000 annually certainly did. Those with advance degrees and experience can earn even more, AK officials told the teens.

“I loved it. It was an amazing experience,” said Evan Underwood, a senior at Marshall. “I’m really considering working here and I really appreciate (the tour).”

Classmate Don Aiken also come away impressed from the two-hour tour, which included seeing sheets of freshly made steel rolled out and then folded into giant coils for shipping across the nation.

“It’s pretty cool coming here,” said Aiken. “If you want to get a good job, work here.”

Students from Middletown’s private Marshall High School got a rare insider’s tour Friday, Nov. 16, of AK Steel. (Nick Graham)

With its headquarters in West Chester Twp., AK Steel is a leading producer of flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel products, primarily for the automotive, infrastructure and manufacturing, electrical power generation and distribution markets.

MORE: AK Steel opens $36 million research facility in Middletown

The company has approximately 9,200 employees at manufacturing operations across seven states (Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia), as well as in Canada and Mexico.

MORE: AK Steel wins supplier of the year honors

The Marshall tour — and other recent student and teacher tours — were arranged through the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton.

Chamber President Rick Pearce said, “the manufacturing and industrial industry makes up our largest percentage of (chamber) membership and also accounts for a great deal of employment in our region.”

“It’s important for us to expose students to the many career options that manufacturing offers,” said Pearce.

Students from Middletown’s private Marshall High School got a rare insider’s tour Friday, Nov. 16, of AK Steel. (Nick Graham)

AK Steel officials were happy to accommodate the school groups, most of which also toured the plant in October during the national manufacturing month.

“This is a great way to showcase what we do, and the career opportunities we offer to inform and energize the next generation of potential AK Steel employees,” said Kirk Reich, AK Steel President and Chief Operating Officer.

Students from Middletown’s private Marshall High School got a rare insider’s tour Friday, Nov. 16, of AK Steel. (Nick Graham)

“This year across our company we’ve had more than 17 events and more than 900 students and 80 educators tour our facilities and learn about careers in steel manufacturing,” said Reich.

“Here in Middletown, we were pleased to host 16 teachers from across six different, local schools, technical schools, and the University of Cincinnati, to learn first-hand about careers at AK Steel and the innovative products we make,” he said.

Students from Middletown’s private Marshall High School got a rare insider’s tour Friday, Nov. 16, of AK Steel. (Nick Graham)

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