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Manufacturing career options: Nationwide event aims to attract youth to the manufacturing field

Manufacturing career options: Nationwide event aims to attract youth to the manufacturing field

October 6th, 2018 by Philip Joens in Business

OCTOBER 2018 FILE: Command Web General Manager Chris Huckleberry, left, leads tours of the west end book printing plant as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce hosted an open house at the 230,000-square-foot facility. They did so in an effort to get students and young people interested in manufacturing. Officials offered numerous tours of the plant, hosting several dozen visitors.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Cheye Violet Richards strolled around Command Web's printing facility Friday morning with her son, Sylas, in tow as they watched books get made.

Richards works the third shift in the book-binding department at Command Web. As the pair walked around her work station, Richards couldn't help but beam.

"I was trying to explain to him the other day what I do all night long," Richards said. "Then this happened this week."

Five manufacturers in Jefferson City and Linn participated Friday in Manufacturing Day, a nationwide event to cultivate interest in manufacturing among children and teens. Local organizers said they want to reach children like Sylas because employers cannot find enough workers to fill open positions.

Command Web gave four tours of its printing facility and bindery at 7100 One Color Way as part of Manufacturing Day festivities Friday. The facility makes about 4 million paperback books per week, or 200 million books per year, Command Web General Manager Chris Huckleberry said.

About a half-dozen visitors stopped by the bindery where they saw childhood classics such as "Harry Potter," "The Hunger Games" and "Holes" being bound.

Huckleberry showed the group machines that trimmed and stapled books as employees nearby boxed them. Some books had hundreds of pages. Others had just a few sheets of paper.

At one point, Huckleberry tore the cover off a book as he showed the group how workers and machines in the bindery glue book bindings together.

"They're going to carve the backbone off," he said.

As the group entered a warehouse that held 3,700-pound rolls of paper used to print books, the overwhelming smell of pine trees hit them.

"Those rolls of paper are made in logs about as tall as you see them," Huckleberry said as he pointed to rolls of paper stacked at least three stories high. "This time of year, we're receiving a lot of paper."

Next, visitors stopped by the printing room and heard the cacophony caused by two printing presses that print more than 1,400 feet of paper per minute.

After the tour, Sylas said he liked seeing the factory. Sylas wanted to be a scientist a few months ago, then he said he wanted to work with technology a few days ago, Richards said.

"I don't know," Sylas said when asked by his mom what he wants to be when he grew up.

Still, Richards could tell the tour made an impression on the youngster.

Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, said the business community supports Manufacturing Day because companies want to get children interested in manufacturing.

"Salaries are very competitive," Mehan said. "We really need to expose that sector to kids."

Missouri Enterprise, a group that supports manufacturers and high-tech employers across the state, co-hosted the Manufacturing Day in Missouri with the Missouri Chamber.

A Missouri Chamber report from May found the state may face a shortage of 200,000 workers in all industries during the next 20 years.

Missouri's population of people older than 45 grew by 52 percent from 1990-2016, the study found. The state's population of people ages 25-44 declined during that time frame. During the next 20 years, 1.6 million workers ages 45-64 are expected to retire.

The study determined only 1.4 million people will come into the pipeline even if Missouri can retain every high school and college graduate in the state.

A skills gap makes it hard for companies to find employees with the right skills, Missouri Chamber officials said in May. About 53 percent of Missouri jobs fall into the mid-skill category, but only 46 percent of workers possess the skills needed for these jobs, according to the study.

The Missouri Chamber and Missouri Enterprise first hosted Manufacturing Day in 2015, when 1,235 students participated across the state. In 2016, attendance rose to 2,803 students. Last year, attendance hit 5,303 students.

About 150 manufacturers participated in Manufacturing Day 2018 across the state, said Karen Buschman, Missouri Chamber vice president of communications.

ABB, DeLong's and Porite also participated in Jefferson City. The Haviland Corporation participated in Linn.

Huckleberry said planning for this year's event came together at the last minute. Command Web wants to invite high school students to the facility next year.

"The goal for all the manufacturers is to get a younger workforce exposed to manufacturing," he said. "I think high school students don't understand that some of these higher-paid operator jobs are very well paid."