When Alyssa Stackpoole first participated in Manufacturing Day, as a L’Anse Creuse High School student, it opened her eyes. Upon graduating, she took a position with metal-working company Synergy Prototype Stamping and was excited to be on the hosting side of the program this year.
“Exposure to the industry is important,” says Stackpoole. “It shows students a broader range of options for their future careers and creates an open communication between businesses and the community.”
The county’s annual Manufacturing Day ran last week, coinciding with National Manufacturing Day on October 5. The event provided an opportunity for high school students to visit manufacturing facilities to see the industry in action and meet the people involved. This year’s program included 82 tours given by 72 host companies to 2,400 students from 28 schools.
John Paul Rea, director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, said the response has been overwhelming.
“Manufacturing is an important part of our economy, and there are many well-paying jobs in the field for our next generation of talent,” Rea says. “Manufacturing Day offers a unique opportunity for these young people to connect with local businesses and learn about the profession, perhaps piquing their interest in a future career and helping us fuel our talent pipeline.”
Shannon Williams from the Macomb Intermediate School District agrees, adding that the exposure can break down social barriers around manufacturing work being underpaid and “dirty” work. “It allows them to see manufacturing from art-to-part and begins to tear down the stigma that has existed for years,” Williams says.
Participating companies like KUKA, MAG Automotive, MB Aerospace and HTI Cybernetics displayed a banner outside their facilities to welcome attendees and give students and teachers 90- to 120-minute guided tours that included an overview of the employer by company leadership, who provided information about what they do, who they hire and opportunities for career growth. There were also smaller sub-tours that provided a chance for students to talk with employees and see the product life cycle in action.
Stackpoole points out that students bring an inquisitiveness that helps them really learn from the experience. “Students are typically highly interested, engaging with the tour guides and asking in-depth questions,” she says. “They are more curious than most adults that tour our facilities.”
It’s not just the students who reap the benefits. Rea says the tours allow the host sites the chance to promote their companies and interact with the next generation. Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have participated in Macomb County’s Manufacturing Day.