You can file it under "workforce development," but all the kids know is that they had fun.
TekStarz, Jonesboro Unlimited's summer technology camp, once again got local teenagers excited about careers in manufacturing. For six years now, Jonesboro Unlimited, the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Arkansas State University-Newport have been hosting the program.
The concept is simple. Introduce a group of a dozen Jonesboro-area junior high students to the career possibilities in today's world of manufacturing. Along the way, we are dispelling some of the myths about the manufacturing world. (to see the video, click here)
"It's a fantastic opportunity for these young people to see what working in a modern factory is really like," said Shelle Randall, Jonesboro Unlimited's Director of Workforce Development and Existing Industry, "Because of TekStarz, they are getting to see and hear first-hand what kind of jobs are out there for them in the future."
During their four-day camp, the teenagers did everything from spending time in a lab at Nice-Pak making the solution that's applied to wet-wipes to working a CNC machine at ASU-Newport. Over the four days of TekStarz, the campers visited Unilever, Nice-Pak, Nestle, Apex Tool Group, Post Consumer Group, ASU-Newport, Best Manufacturing, Hytrol, A-State's Tinkering Studio, Ritter Communications and took in a safety workshop by Howell Safety and Training Solutions.
What was their favorite? That depended on who you asked.
"Welding is always a big hit," said Randall, "Whether it was a robot they operated with a remote control or a laser cutter tearing through sheet metal at Best Manufacturing, they always get excited when those sparks start flying."
One of the most advantageous parts of TekStarz is how hands-on it is. In addition to getting time in a lab, the campers assemble two metal fabrication projects, one at Best Manufacturing and the other at Hytrol.
Even though they are on summer vacation, at least one teacher noticed how much her students were learning.
"I loved seeing my kiddos having fun. I hope they learned something they can carry over into their future career choices," said Miranda Archer from Brookland Schools.
"That's why this is more than just a summer camp, this is the heart of workforce development," Randall said, "We need junior-high-aged kids to start thinking about the kind of careers they want to have long before they graduate from high school. Exposing them to all there is to offer in the world of manufacturing gives them ideas about the kind of jobs they want to pursue after they finish their education."
Jonesboro Unlimited, the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, and ASU-Newport sponsor TekStarz, along with grants and assistance from the Workforce Training Consortium, our industry partners, and the Foundation of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International.