Manufacturing is not just turning wrenches or operating a welding torch.
That was the message Tim Stacy, operations manager at Twin Discs and “ring-leader” of the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance, wanted to get across during the inaugural Manufacturing Day at the Nacogdoches County Exposition and Civic Center on Wednesday.
“The goal is to take juniors in high school and teach them the facets of manufacturing. It’s not just turning wrenches and welding. It’s programming, engineering, accounting. We want to show them how cool it is to be in manufacturing,” Stacy said. “If they will be open and inquisitive, they can learn a whole lot about what their next step should be going into the future.”
The event for high school juniors from Nacogdoches and Angelina County presented students with opportunities to learn about the manufacturing industry, what jobs are available in East Texas and what products are manufactured in the region. Students also had face-to-face conversations with representatives from over 25 manufacturers.
The event is a product of the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance, an industry-led partnership striving to grow the manufacturing sector in surrounding East Texas counties. The organization works closely with the various school districts in order to prepare the students for the industry needs.
“We’re working very closely with the school systems to make sure the curriculum that they teach matches what they need in industry,” Stacy said.
About 200 students crammed into the expo center to learn the ins-and-outs of manufacturing. Nacogdoches High School junior Hunter Ballard used the event to narrow his focus on the future.
“I’m trying to see exactly what all the businesses are offering and what I’m able to do to help myself to get into that kind of work,” Ballard said.“(Manufacturing day) helps us learn more about what we need to do to help ourselves to go into manufacturing, and has helped me decide what more I want to do, like the wood work industry and stuff like that.”
The event had 26 booths from companies across the region and about 75 other manufacturers in attendance to speak with students. Representatives from Angelina College and the Stephen F. Austin State University Career Center also offered information on career paths available to students.
“A lot of people have misconceptions about manufacturing. A lot of people say you have to have a four-year degree to be successful,” Stacy said. “I would encourage people to get a higher level than high school, but these trade schools like Angelina College will give them the skills they need and they can have a great career and living for their family with benefits and all in manufacturing.”
Virginia Matlock, quality control coordinator and six-year employee at Lee Container, was there to answer questions and to show students a video called “Life of A Bottle” demonstrating the start-to-finish process of making their products. But more importantly, Matlock was excited to use the event to show students how many manufacturing opportunities the students have around them.
“A lot of the students don’t realize how much industry we have here in Nacogdoches. They drive by buildings and have no idea of what’s going on inside, and this gives them an idea,” she said.