“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
After “how old are you?” it’s probably the next icebreaker question a grown-up asks a child.
What if we could find a way to expand that child’s list of multiple-choice answers beyond “doctor,” “basketball player” and “I don’t know”? What if “manufacturing” made the list?
Manufacturing should be considered an “all of the above” answer. The world of modern manufacturing has engineering, science, chemistry, technology, and math under that one heading. The young people of today need to know that. That’s why Jonesboro Unlimited, along with local manufacturers, put together the 2018 Industry Educator Externship.
The idea behind it is simple. Get local teachers out of the classroom for a couple of days and give them a true, behind the curtain tour of four Jonesboro manufacturing facilities and expose them to the different types of careers in manufacturing. In turn, they will take that information back to their students, planting a seed in those fertile minds that a career in manufacturing should be on their list of standard responses to “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Twenty-two teachers, from elementary school to high school from several Jonesboro-area school districts, took part in the three-day event, touring and talking to employees from all levels at Nestle, Hytrol, Nice-Pak, and Frito-Lay.
“It gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation of manufacturing and a different attitude to have when my students begin asking questions,” one teacher commented after spending two days at Nestle. That same teacher later said, “It was a great experience. I’m so excited to take this back to my students.”
“That’s exactly the impact we were looking for,” said Shelle Randall, Director of Workforce Development and Existing Industry for Jonesboro Unlimited. “Workforce development isn’t something that should start when students are preparing for college or deciding on a major. We hope that these incredible teachers will take what they learned back to their students and encourage them to consider the world of modern manufacturing as a career choice after they graduate.”
From the comments Randall was given following the final day of the event, it appears the message was well-received.
“I have many ideas to implement!” One teacher commented.
“I can’t wait to bring this information back to my school and my students,” said another.
“I had misconceptions of what factory work was and what it entailed,” one teacher wrote.
“Tons of marketing and messaging potential to students,” was the quote from one of the teachers.
The program isn’t just a benefit to the teachers and the students they’ll share their experience with, the manufacturers got something out of it too.
Stanley Luchicki, the Site Manager for Jonesboro's Nice-Pak plant said they were "honored to have our educators learn what manufacturing has to offer our students, and provide that very outlet for our future generations."
Jessica Odom, Employee Training Specialist with Hytrol Conveyors, added, “The teachers learned how manufacturing jobs have evolved over time and we have learned what opportunities exist for us to plug in and better support our educators.”
And by giving those educators better support, manufacturers like Hytrol, Nestle, Nice-Pak, and Frito-Lay are, in a way, helping themselves. By going directly to the teachers and shining a light on the opportunities that await their current and future students in the manufacturing world, those same manufacturers are getting a head start on engaging the next generation of American manufacturing professionals.
Now that’s “workforce development.”