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Students learn about manufacturing through virtual event

by Layne Stracener | October 2, 2021 at 5:05 a.m. | Updated October 2, 2021 at 5:05 a.m.

Thousands of students from across Missouri participated in the annual Manufacturing Day on Friday where they virtually toured factories across Missouri and learned about careers in the manufacturing industry.

This year and last year, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted the statewide event online via Zoom and a Facebook livestream due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students watched videos from inside the factories to see how products are made and learn about some of the manufacturing jobs available. Manufacturing leaders also answered students’ questions and spoke about what it’s like to work in the manufacturing industry.

About 7,000 students from 168 schools and 290 classrooms registered for the event, said Brian Crouse, the vice president of education programs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. Crouse estimates about 80 percent of the students were in high school, 10 percent were in middle school and 10 percent were post-secondary (mostly two-year technical colleges).

Talent recruitment and development is the top concern for Missouri manufacturers. The goal of this event is to address this through early awareness and career pathway development for students, according to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

In his opening remarks at the event, Daniel Mehan, president and chief executive officer of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the event encourages students to consider a career in manufacturing, because the next generation’s talent is “the key to growing the industry.” Mehan said he expects to see a need for 5 million new manufacturing professionals in the United States in the next 10 years.

“The manufacturing industry is a huge part of our economy, and it’s growing in Missouri today,” he said. “We are a state of makers and builders. Some of the world’s most advanced, impressive factories are located right here in Missouri.”

Mid-Missouri schools that participated in the event include: Linn County R-1 School District, Columbia Public Schools, North Callaway High School, Mexico School District 59, Southern Boone School District in Ashland, State Technical College in Linn, Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and State Fair Community College in Sedalia.

The Missouri Chamber Manufacturing Alliance developed the event in collaboration with the Manufacturing Institute, Missouri Enterprise and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The program was broken into segments featuring a new manufacturer every 20 minutes. Featured manufacturers included Quaker/Pepsico, Nike Air Manufacturing and Innovation, Toyota, Boeing, Orscheln Industries, Brewer Science, Watlow, and Hitachi ABB Power Grid.

The first segment of the event featured Quaker/Pepsico in Columbia where students watched how millions of rice grains are converted into rice cakes using a machine and then transported to a flavor room where a different machine adds flavors such as caramel, cheddar and apple cinnamon. The rice cakes are then baked before being transported to the packaging department.

The Quaker/Pepsico site was built in 1994 and began production with more than 100 employees. Since then, it has grown to include more than 350 employees.

It has career opportunities in production, warehouse, quality assurance and maintenance. It uses almost nine acres of rice every day — or one football field of rice about every three and a half hours, according to the Quaker/Pepsico video featured at the event.

The last segment of the event featured Hitachi ABB in Jefferson City where students learned how a power distribution transformer is made. A transformer takes power from a power grid and converts it into energy.

Hitachi ABB has about 900 employees, including 740 hourly employees and about 150 salaried employees. It makes about 80 percent of what goes into a transformer, according to the video featured at the event.

At the event, Carter Holt, production manager of Hitachi ABB, said Hitachi ABB employees get to work with many people from all across the world. Holt encouraged students to have an open mind, learn everything they can and build teamwork skills, as these aspects are important in manufacturing careers.

“Try different things; find what works for you,” Holt said. “Everybody has a different passion.”

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