What do you think of when you imagine a manufacturing facility? Perhaps you picture a dirty, overcrowded setting with dim lighting and old machines. Alongside that you see workers doing dull, repetitive jobs. Well, what if I told you that’s not the case at all? That those ideas are manufacturing myths and scenes from the past? Would you believe me?
Because the reality is this: Most of today’s advanced manufacturers have bright, clean buildings. They have workers tasked with highly-skilled, interesting jobs. They are growing and making products essential to our everyday lives. All told, manufacturing is on the rise and companies are ready and willing to hire the next generation of talent.
But how do you dispel myths and long-held ideas while also inspiring this talent pool? One answer is the national celebration of Manufacturing Day, also known as MFG Day, an event that features high school students visiting area advanced manufacturing facilities to see the industry in action and meet people who make things. By giving young people this behind-the-scenes access, you can open their eyes to potential careers and opportunities that they may not have previously considered.
Here in Macomb County, we’ve held a Manufacturing Day celebration for the last five years. Our most recent was this past Friday, October 5. In all, an estimated 2,400 students from 28 MISD schools attended 82 tours given by 72 host companies – our largest event yet. During individually organized visits, students got to experience everything from the design and production of anatomically correct prosthetic solutions to the creation of vehicles. For instance, a group of students from Adlai Stevenson and Warren Career Prep Center got inside access to FCA Automobile when they toured the U.S. Warren Truck Assembly Plant.
The day started with a welcome and introduction from FCA, Macomb County and MISD leadership. A question and answer session led by Plant Manager Andy Ragalyi followed. During this activity, students learned fun facts like what the most popular Ram color is (A: white) and how many trucks are produced at the plant everyday (A: 1023). They were then provided with safety equipment and led on to the plant floor, where they were carted to sections of the facility to see the line in action. Trucks in various stages of assembly were the main attraction. Some areas had trucks with only the body complete, others featured trucks in the testing stage. But the feature consistent throughout was the constant movement of FCA employees in and around the vehicles as they slowly moved down the line. These workers expertly attached parts, worked with robots and assisted with quality assurance – demonstrating how and why a complete Ram comes off the line at Warren Trucking every 53 seconds.
The hands-on portion of the tour took place in an area of the plant dedicated to work hardening, a term used for employee training. Here students participated in activities that would help them prepare for working on the line. For instance, in an area designated dexterity, students competed in a timed race to move wooden pegs from one end of a board to another. The exercise was both fun and educational in that it allowed students to see how workers train to use both of their hands on the plant floor.
The day wrapped with a presentation on the types of careers available at FCA, a helpful guide for students who were interested in pursuing a job in manufacturing after graduation. Which brings us back to the ultimate goal of Manufacturing Day – exposing young people to the interesting and well-paying careers that are currently available in the field. Through tours at FCA and at the 71 other host site companies, we accomplish that. And as previously mentioned, this behind-the-scenes access helps this generation understand that the manufacturing jobs of the past are not the manufacturing jobs of the present. There’s opportunity out there, we just have to help make the connection.
Macomb County’s Manufacturing Day is made possible through the support of an active planning committee and the generosity of host sites and sponsors. 2018 sponsors included:
- Advancing Macomb
- Dominion Technologies
- Fori Automation
- Futuramic Tool & Engineering
- Proper Group International
- PTI Engineered Plastics
- Workforce Intelligence Network
- AIM Computer Solutions
- Baker Industries
- Ford Next Generation Learning
- GM – Warren Transmission
- KUKA North America
- Lanzen Fabricating
- Macomb County Chamber
- Michigan Works! Young Professionals
- RCO Engineering
- Romeo Rim
- Sterling Heights Regional Chamber
- UHY Advisors
- American Society of Employers
- Mitsubishi Chemical Performance Polymers
For more information, visit http://business.macombgov.org/Business-Events-ManufacturingDay. And to see more pictures from this year’s event, click here.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.