On October 4th, ninth grade students from nine, Cedar Valley area schools packed the busses and hit the pavement to explore manufacturing and engineering careers in action as part of National Manufacturing Day (www.mfgday.com). The Great Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber coordinated the event with local partners: Hawkeye Community College, Cedar Falls and Waterloo Community Schools, along with the Cedar Valley West school consortium consisting of Aplington-Parkersburg, Dike-New Hartford, Gladbrook-Reinbeck and Grundy Center Community School Districts.
The Cedar Valley is home to the highest concentration of manufacturing companies and careers in the state, and the demand for future employees in manufacturing is projected to be extremely high. Some area companies have been hiring 15 to 25 people per year to keep up with retirements. Hawkeye Community College is currently the leading advanced manufacturing training center in the state.
More than 14 manufacturing companies participated and opened their doors to groups of 15-40 students and chaperones showing off their advanced technology, innovative designs and leadership opportunities to a new generation. "Manufacturing continues to be a leading employer in the Cedar Valley region offering a variety of skilled trades, advanced technologies and professional business careers. It is important to expose our students to these opportunities in the area. Data, collected through our Cedar Valley West school-to-work program, indicates students are currently not aware of the local options that surround them," said Sherri Walker, Director of Cedar Valley West. Walker continued to say, "It is imperative we create and allow these opportunities for students to enter our businesses and industries. This exposure allows students to make connections between workplace expectations, networking, and classroom curriculum. Students begin to see themselves working here in the Cedar Valley. Making high school career connections showcase our viable communities and assist students in making informed educational and career decisions."
"It's important for us to debunk the myths of manufacturing careers that can exist with students, and even their parents. These are no longer the dirty careers of years past. These are now careers that involve critical thinking, high-technology, and some of the most important products to our economy," said Britt Jungck, Director of Business Services and Workforce Development for the Alliance & Chamber.
Students have the opportunity to respond to an online survey to capture what they learned and how their attitudes about manufacturing careers changed as a result of seeing the facilities first-hand. This data will be extremely useful for area school districts in career counseling and high school programming.
"This is just another example of how the business and education communities in the Cedar Valley are creating meaningful partnerships that will enhance our workforce and quality of life," Jungck