County News

Students explore careers in manufacturing

Students tour a facility and try out equipment during Oakland County Manufacturing Day. Photo courtesy of Oakland County

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Oakland County exposes students to careers in manufacturing, which plays a big part in the county's economy.

Problem:

Advanced manufacturing companies need to find talent and attract employees to work in the county’s manufacturing field.

Solution:

Allow students from county schools to tour facilities at manufacturing companies and discover different career possibilities.

Every year on the first Friday in October, students in Oakland County, Mich., get out from behind their desks and travel to advanced manufacturing facilities to discover different types of careers that are available in the county.

Oakland County has been holding its own Manufacturing Day since 2015. Students are picked up at school and brought to different companies where they get a behind-the-scenes look at manufacturing facilities, meet professionals and gain exposure to careers they don’t even know exist. During the day, companies allow students to participate in interactive exercises and hands-on activities that translate concepts they are learning in the classroom to the real world.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter said the county’s workforce development efforts try to expose young people to a broad array of job opportunities. He said he thinks there are often misconceptions about manufacturing and the jobs available in the manufacturing field.

“We’re really trying to inform them of some of the opportunities that are right in their own backyard that they may not have thought about and expose them to that,” he said.

Oakland County Manufacturing Day is part of a national celebration, which was established by a presidential proclamation in 2014 to encourage the exploration of careers in manufacturing.

Oakland County Workforce Development Manager Jennifer Llewellyn said the county was inspired by officials in their neighboring county, Macomb County, which also participate in Manufacturing Day.

With Oakland County located north of Detroit in eastern Michigan, the area is a hub for advanced manufacturing including research and development, connected mobility, design and innovation. The county is home to more than 2,000 manufacturing companies. In 2017, there were 67,000 manufacturing jobs in the county.

Llewellyn said some manufacturing companies in the county are international companies that range from automotive manufacturing to producing food such as chips and salsa and include larger businesses such as General Motors and Magna International. Many companies have continued to participate in the program each year.

“It’s a fulfilling day for them [the businesses] as well and for their employees to share their stories about how they got in this career and to feel like they’re giving back and inspiring the next generation of workers,” she said.

Since its inception, Oakland County’s Manufacturing Day has tripled in size. This year, 1,300 students from four Oakland Schools Technical Campuses and 25 county high schools visited 50 companies.

Llewellyn said the day opens students’ eyes to advanced manufacturing and shows that the field is new and innovative.

 “I see that it will translate in future years to students considering careers in advanced manufacturing that may not have considered it before,” she said.

The event is led by the Oakland County Michigan Works! Agency/Oakland County Workforce Development, but partners with Oakland County’s economic development team, Oakland Schools Intermediate School District and Oakland Community College.

“It’s really a county-wide collaborative effort led by the county and I think a great example of where county government can take a convening role to help bring people together that have a mutual interest in an important issue,” Coulter said.

Manufacturing Day requires 10 months of planning for marketing and communication, sponsorships, outreach to companies, engagement with high schools, recruitment for companies and transportation arrangements for students.

The costs for Manufacturing Day are underwritten with the help of corporate, educational and partner sponsors, which cover the costs of transportation, print materials, student and volunteer T-shirts and food and beverage costs.

During the day, the county uses social media to inspire companies and students who can’t participate, Llewellyn said. During a company tour, both students and businesses are encouraged to post photos and engage on social media using hashtags. In 2018, the local Oakland County Manufacturing Day hashtag was trending on Twitter and the Oakland County Michigan Works! Twitter account was one of the three most active users of the national hashtag.

Llewellyn advised counties looking to establish a similar event to start small and utilize partnerships because “that’s where the magic happens.” The first Oakland County Manufacturing Day only hosted 300 students from four different Oakland Schools Technical Center campuses.

 “It’s quite honestly my favorite day of the year and when you have people that share that passion and love for workforce development, it’s easy to be successful,” Llewellyn said.

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