Local students invited to tour manufacturing facilities



GOSHEN — Manufacturing companies from across Elkhart County invited local middle-schoolers into their facilities this week as part of the second annual Elkhart County Manufacturing Week celebration. The event, which started Monday and will continue through Oct. 11, will provide approximately 1,900 county eighth-graders the opportunity to visit local manufacturers to explore the diverse education and career pathways available in manufacturing today. According to Chris Stager, vice president of retention and expansion for the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, Elkhart County Manufacturing Week is actually a localization and expansion of National Manufacturing Day, which this year falls on Friday. Founded in 2012, National Manufacturing Day is a nationwide annual celebration of modern manufacturing during which manufacturers invite students and educators to visit their operations in a collective effort to showcase manufacturing career opportunities, technological advances and to improve public perceptions of modern manufacturing. This year, all 10 middle schools in Elkhart County are participating in the event, including: Bethany, Concord, Fairfield, Goshen, Jimtown, North Side, Northridge, Northwood, Pierre Moran and West Side. “The explosive growth of this event spurred the creation of a new curriculum collaboratively created by Elkhart County school representatives for the students’ continued education of the manufacturing industry,” Stager said of the event. “Parent events will also be held throughout Elkhart County after the company visits in October at each of the participating middle schools. The parent events will provide the opportunity to educate parents and families on the diverse career and financial opportunities available in Elkhart County’s manufacturing facilities.” Angie Schwartz, a social worker with Goshen Middle School, spoke about the school’s goals for Manufacturing Week while chaperoning a group of GMS eighth-graders on a tour of Lippert Components Plant 228 on Goshen’s south side late Tuesday morning. “For us, it’s about understanding the manufacturing job from the ground up. So some of the questions the kids have involve what’s needed at entry level, mid-level and upper level for jobs, things like that,” Schwartz said of the event. “Then at the same time, it’s also about getting eighth-graders to start to thinking about what they’re going to do after graduation. And since there is so much manufacturing in this area, it’s a great way to kind of understand what is actually going on and what is available when it comes to career options. And it’s also about kind of understanding what these places are looking for when they’re looking for workers, so really talking about the soft skills – what makes a good worker a good worker – which is like coming to work on time, having a good attitude, wanting to learn, and how those impact a person’s ability to excel in their jobs.” Francisco Behanmorillo, a 13-year-old Goshen Middle School student, was among the group touring the Lippert plant with Schwartz Tuesday morning. “It’s interesting, finding out how factories actually work, and not just imagining a bunch of people in an assembly line putting things together, because that’s not always how it is,” Behanmorillo said of the tour. “My dad actually works at a factory, so I’ve been in a factory before. But the way that factory works is very different from the way this one works, so it was fun to learn about this one too.” According to Stager, one of the main challenges facing manufacturing companies today is a growing gap in skilled labor. As an example, Stager noted that six out of 10 open skilled manufacturing positions in the U.S. today are unfilled due to this talent shortage. “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap,” Stager said of the issue. Toby Crowley, general manager of Lippert Plant 228, confirmed as much while helping lead Tuesday’s tour of the facility, noting that Elkhart County has been hit particularly hard when it comes to this lack of available, trained manufacturing workers. “The last report I saw was 35,000 available jobs in Elkhart County,” Crowley said of the predicament. “There are so many new RV manufacturing plants that are going up daily, and yet we still need people to fill the facilities that are already here. So it’s definitely an issue we’re struggling with. That’s why we feel showing the kids they have other options for careers is very important. And we’d love to see some of these kids come to work at Lippert after they graduate.” Elkhart County Manufacturing Week 2017 is facilitated and funded through the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County and Horizon Education Alliance, with significant financial support from Chemical Bank, Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Insight Accounting, Key Bank, Monogram Foods and Thor Industries. Additional sponsors include: ABC 57, American Countryside Farmer’s Market, Burkhart Advertising, The Center Six One Five, Dal-mar Catering TLH Inc, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Hawkins Water, Krogers, Maple City Printing, Martin’s Supermarket, Matterhorn Catering, MSC Industrial Supply, Nelson’s Chicken and Catering, Paragon Printing, RV/MH Hall of Fame, Smoker Craft Inc, and the Spohn Ballroom. The following manufacturers and supporting organizations will host local tours during the week: Actia; Agdia; Alpha Systems; Ancon; Aluminum Trailer Company; Bearcat Corporation; Benteler Automotive; Challenger Door; Commodore Homes; Conn-Selmer; Creative Bus Sales; Dexter Axle; Dometic; Dynamic Metals; Elkhart Plastics; Furrion; GDC; Genesis Products; Goshen Stamping; Hoosier Crane; Indiana Plastics; J&N Stone; Jayco; Kem Krest; Kessington; KIB Electronics; KIK Custom Products; Kobelco Compressors; Kountry Wood Products; L & W Engineering; Lippert Components; Lycro Products; MasterBrand Cabinets; MORryde International; NIBCO; Northern Indiana Axle; Patrick Industries; Reschcor; Robert Weed Plywood; Satellite Industries; Shield Restraint Systems; Smoker Craft; Southwest Welding; Stair Supplies; Tenneco; Thor Motor Coach; Transhield; Universal Trailer; Utilimaster; Veada Industries; Vista Manufacturing; Welch Packaging; and Wieland Designs. John Kline can be reached at john.kline@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN


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