Manufacturers to welcome more than 10,000 next-gen innovators

Manufacturing is part of the DNA of West Michigan. Discover Manufacturing Week gives students a chance to see up close how manufacturing is advancing in the region. 

After the success of last year’s Discover Manufacturing Week, which saw over 10,000 students participating, West Michigan Works!, in partnership with Discover Manufacturing and The Right Place, is preparing for the 2023 event on Nov. 6-11. 

Educators and manufacturers from throughout the region are invited to be part of this initiative, which offers the next generation a glimpse into the world of advanced manufacturing. 

The deadline for employer registration is Oct. 1. Educators have until Oct. 11 to sign up students. Most participating students are in high school, but some middle schoolers and, in special cases, elementary students take part.
This year’s event marks the return to fully in-person tours after the past two years of pandemic-related disruptions.

Showing off opportunities
“Our mission is to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. The whole world seems shorthanded, and it’s more important than ever to expose students to the abundant career opportunities in our industry,” says Jerry Hill, industry council lead for Discover Manufacturing, West Michigan Works!. “Students can see firsthand that manufacturing today is not their grandparent’s factory and offers a great work environment with rewarding pay and unlimited growth potential.”

Students will have a chance to explore West Michigan’s manufacturing future during Discover Manufacturing Week on Nov. 6-11. (West Michgian Works!)

Advanced manufacturing had 23 positions listed in the West Michigan Works! 2023 Hot Jobs List, with an average wage between $22 and $40 per hour. Occupations on the Hot Jobs List must show a growth rate of at least 4% (double the regional average) over 10 years; annual openings above industry averages; and wages at or above $14.30.
“The manufacturers who host tours do a great job of providing immersive experiences that highlight the full manufacturing process while engaging with students in a welcoming and encouraging way,” says Nichole Lyke, economic development director at Barry County Chamber & Economic Development Alliance. “Students can ask questions about the products and goods being made, the variety of career paths, and how to apply for a position if they are interested. These experiences are important for retaining youth in your community and creating a workforce with the skills needed to support the local economy.”
Opening students’ eyes

West Michigan Works! currently supports 22 apprenticeship programs for advanced manufacturing. Apprenticeships provide opportunities for employers to fill talent gaps and develop a highly skilled workforce. For students, apprenticeships are an alternative to a four-year college, offering specialized hands-on learning within the industry while getting paid.

Students take a tour of a manufacturing facility during Discover Manufacturing Week. (West Michigan Works!)
“It was nice to highlight what we do and to show students that factory work is not all boring and dirty. They can take pride in getting a job outside of high school and be okay with not having a college degree if that is what they choose to do,” says Heather Jimison, business manager for human resources and purchasing for Flairwood. 

Feedback from student participants each year is overwhelmingly positive. A student from Potters House noted, “The best part for me was learning more about part designing and manufacturing. It was cool to see how the scanner can pick up even the smallest imperfections between a manufactured part and the original part design.”

The interactions between employers and students not only invigorate the visitors from the next generation but can also boost the morale and pride of the company’s workforce.

“Opening our doors up to the students and seeing their reactions as they tour the facility to see these beautiful yachts being built by hand from start to finish all under one roof is a great way to keep pride instilled in our employees,” says Joshua Murphy, senior learning and development specialist for Tiara Yachts.
Discover Manufacturing is a regional network of hundreds of manufacturers who are committed to addressing the short- and long-term talent needs of West Michigan’s manufacturing industry. Learn more at 
For more details on Discover Manufacturing Week and to register, visit

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.