Making manufacturing a potential career through the Gilbert Chamber and local business tours

Gilbert, AZ | Submitted by Sarah Watts

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A partnership between the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce and local manufacturers is giving area students an inside look at the career possibilities available in the industry. The Chamber’s manufacturing council and business/education committees joined forces to create the unique event.

In October (Manufacturing Month), the Chamber orchestrated middle school field trips to engage and enlighten students about different career opportunities in the manufacturing industry. These bus trips brought students to two different companies for a behind-the-scenes tour. They saw a wide variety of businesses, including Footprint (environmental food packaging), Silent Air (cool room equipment), Wisdom Natural Brands (Stevia sweeteners), and more. After which, they gathered at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus for hands-on exercises.

There are still misconceptions about manufacturing jobs. Many still view them as dark, dangerous places with little room for professional growth. Junior high is the time when many students become aware and interested in various career paths. But at this age, many are still unaware of the wide variety of careers available, especially within the manufacturing industry. These could vary from machining to product testing to accounting and product sourcing. It’s a great opportunity to showcase both entry level and advanced roles, and how to get there.

While many groups orchestrate open house opportunities, these tours are getting kids there who might not otherwise choose to go. Participants were chosen by teachers for their potential aptitude for one of the many careers available within the manufacturing industry.

In a state where 13 percent of youth between 16 and 24 are not working or in school, providing a path and vision toward future career path is crucial. The Arizona Education Progress Meter identifies a statewide goal to bring this down to 7 percent by 2030. Programs like this will also aid graduation rates, as more students are working toward something they’ve seen first-hand.

With seven businesses to visit and more than 300 students on the trip, the first year was a big success. Business owners were surprised at how engaged the students were and how much they understood. Jeff Bassett, of Footprint, noted that “The students on occasion asked better and more informed questions than a lot of customers ask us. I was presently surprised and how aware they are of sustainability issues.”

Live demos at each of the sites really brought the process to life. And teachers were thrilled at how welcoming the businesses were. It went so well, that the team is already working on an event for next October.

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