Event Connects Indianapolis-Area Students to Careers in Manufacturing

Manufacturing experts explain there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill lucrative job openings.

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In conjunction with its 25th anniversary, dgs Marketing Engineers, a Fishers, Ind.-based marketing communications agency serving leading manufacturers, recently hosted a Connect with Manufacturing event for 25 students from Indianapolis-area schools, exposing them to lucrative careers in U.S. manufacturing.    

Engineering-focused students and teachers from Carmel High School, Pike High School, the McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology in Lawrence Township and the Hinds Career Center, which serves seven school districts in Madison, Hamilton, Tipton and Grant Counties, met at Shelton Machinery, a machine tool distributor in Fishers, to network with Lance Rhodes, deputy state director for Senator Dan Coats; Chuck Birkle, vice president of sales and marketing for Mazak Corporation, the largest machine tool builder in the world; and Harry Moser, a manufacturing industry veteran and founder of the Reshoring Initiative, a well-known organization dedicated to bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

“Manufacturing is a viable and growing industry, which certainly could use more skilled workers,” said Birkle. “People have a misconception that manufacturing plants are dark, dirty and dangerous places, but the reality is most of today’s plants are clean, high-tech work environments. Therefore, it’s important to expose teens to all the great things a manufacturing career can offer, and that’s exactly what Connect with Manufacturing set out to accomplish.”

Mazak proactively works to address the unskilled labor dilemma through its apprenticeship program that offers competitive wages, tuition reimbursement and flexible schedules to select college students.

Deborah Calhoun the Science and Engineering Academy Leader from the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township attended the Connect with Manufacturing event and called it “an outstanding opportunity” for students because it showcased a world of possibilities in manufacturing.

“These students now have more to think about when it comes to making their career choices,” said Calhoun. “They learned length of education does not always equate to earning more money—what matters is mastering a skill set that coincides with the demands of a viable industry.”

Jazmyne Carter, a high school junior and participant in Pike High School’s Science and Engineering Academy and Project Lead the Way, attended the event with Calhoun to learn how engineering plays a role in manufacturing.

“I’ve been interested in an engineering career ever since I visited Purdue during the fifth grade as part of a Girl Scout’s retreat. I have often thought of manufacturing as a dark factory environment with a lot of boxes and people doing things by hand, but this event definitely changed my perception. I learned manufacturing can be a clean, safe environment with advanced automation,” said Carter.   

According to Calhoun, Pike High School selected Carter to attend the event because she is one of the school’s “best and brightest,” being involved—and highly successful—in everything from the school’s robotics team to cheerleading.

Carter is also a participant in “Dream It. Do It. Indiana” which is a Conexus Indiana program that seeks to increase student awareness in advanced manufacturing and logistics as well as connect Hoosier youth to industry-related educational opportunities. In fact, a visit to dreamitdoitindiana.com explains the average manufacturing job pays 40 percent more than the typical Hoosier wage.

Lance Rhodes, who attended Connect with Manufacturing on behalf of Senator Dan Coats, said that the senator’s mantra is “jobs, jobs, jobs” for Indiana as well as the entire United States. He said, “Senator Coats is very active in trying to turn around the economy and create jobs and retain industries in Indiana. He has pushed for legislation to create a better landscape and environment for growth.”

After networking with industry experts at Shelton Machinery, the students took a tour of Bishop Steering Technology, Inc., a company that designs and manufactures steering gear technologies for the automotive and aircraft industries, to watch today’s advanced computer numeric control, or CNC, metal-cutting machines in action.

“I am continually amazed at how clean and efficiently these pieces of machinery operate,” said Tami Davis, career and education transition coordinator from Hinds Career Center. “dgs put on a truly great event. Not only did our students get up close and personal with advanced manufacturing equipment in a real-world scenario, they also were able to interact with experts in the field. Hearing professionals share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the role manufacturing plays in today’s employment opportunities is invaluable as these young people make their career decisions.”    

Kel Tiedman, vice president of engineering for Bishop Steering Technology, believes production facility tours are an effective learning tool for students considering a career in manufacturing. Bishop designs, builds and tests everything inside its steering gears, which allowed the Connect With Manufacturing students to experience different manufacturing stages and see a finished product.

“Not every manufacturing facility handles a workpiece from start to finish, so we were happy to open our doors to these students and present them with a full-fledge manufacturing experience they could relate to,” said Tiedman.

Like Mazak, Bishop Steering Technology is finding that skilled manufacturing workers are in high demand, especially with the company being in the process of expanding its Indiana operations, creating up to 25 new jobs by 2014.

“We created Connect With Manufacturing because we wanted to give back to the manufacturing industry that has played a key role in our success over the past 25 years,” said Marc Diebold, president of dgs Marketing Engineers. “We also strongly believe, as do our clients, that a healthy manufacturing industry is critical to local, state and national economies, and that qualified people are the lifeblood of that industry. However, we're convinced that today’s young people hold several misconceptions concerning the manufacturing industry and are truly unaware of the lucrative career potentials manufacturing has to offer, which is why we wanted to make a meaningful contribution in honor of our 25th anniversary.”