Water technician Douglas Boatwright gives students from Chandler Park Academy a tour of the Great Lakes Water Authority facilities for Manufacturing Day Oct. 4.

Water technician Douglas Boatwright gives students from Chandler Park Academy a tour of the Great Lakes Water Authority facilities for Manufacturing Day Oct. 4.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Chandler Park Academy students learn about careers during Manufacturing Day

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 15, 2019

 Bailey Newsome, 14, and Ira Mason, 15, listen to the process the plant uses to move water out to the communities it services.

Bailey Newsome, 14, and Ira Mason, 15, listen to the process the plant uses to move water out to the communities it services.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Great Lakes Water Authority chemist Wajid A Khan explains the process of water filtration and cleaning.

Great Lakes Water Authority chemist Wajid A Khan explains the process of water filtration and cleaning.

Photo by Donna Agusti

DETROIT — Every year, students across the country are exposed to jobs and career paths they may not have been familiar with through Manufacturing Day.

On Manufacturing Day, students take tours of various manufacturing and STEM-related businesses and institutions to get new ideas about their future. Students from Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods were among those who participated by going on a tour and talking to employees at the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit

“It broadens their horizons into different careers and shows them different applications for classes they are currently taking such as chemistry or physics or math,” said Kelvin Wise, the district STEM coordinator for Chandler Park Academy. STEM is shorthand for science, technology, engineering and math. “I hope they take away an understanding in how what they are learning in school now prepares them for future careers and future success.”

Wise said the GLWA is a good choice for Manufacturing Day because it employs a variety of people in a wide range of careers.

“A lot of people don’t know there are IT jobs here. If you’re into being an electrician, we have electricians here. If you’re into plumbing, we have plumbers here. We have carpenters, millwrights, water technicians, chemists,” said GLWA plant manager Andrae Savage. “We want to make people more aware of the variety of opportunities that are out there for them.”

The GLWA cleans and processes water for dozens of communities across southeastern Michigan.

“GLWA is the customer for suburban communities, producing treated water to more than 127 communities,” explained Savage. “We have 77 communities we handle on the sewer side as well. Our job is to produce water of unquestionable quality. We treat the water at the waterworks park from the Detroit River, we process it and we send it out to the various communities.”

Savage said Manufacturing Day is a great opportunity for both students and businesses.

“I think it’s worthwhile because we are creating an avenue for jobs and careers for our youth,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know about career opportunities at the GLWA, so this is a way to open up those doors and inform those looking for jobs or young people looking for a career path that there are opportunities here for them, whether that is going to college and then applying for a job here or joining an apprenticeship program.”

The Chandler Park Academy students heard from several employees at the GLWA, including chemists, engineers and administrators before going on a tour of the facility and seeing how water gets processed and cleaned so that it can be sent to taps and faucets all over the community.

“I learned all about how they get all the water from the Detroit River and gather it all up and put all the chemicals in it and filter it and gather all the dirt out before they send it out to all of our homes,” said 11th grader Samir Hollingsworth. “There was a lot I didn’t know before.”

“I learned how water plays a big part in life and how it should be clean, and how we need to watch what we put down drains and flush down toilets and stuff, because it can cause a problem that affects us later,” added 11th grader Omar Cooper. “I saw how the people here do their jobs to make sure they are cleaning the water properly so what goes into the community won’t cause a public crisis.”

The primary goal of Manufacturing Day was to allow students to think about their futures in new ways.

“This is our fourth year participating in Manufacturing Day. We’ve taken them to (Process Control & Instrumentation) last year, and before that was (auto supplier) Magna International and (fabrication company) Futuramic,” said Wise. “I definitely try to expose our students to careers and opportunities that they may not be aware of. I can say for a fact these tours make a difference. After we went to Magna, we had students that applied to Magna for internships, and we’ve had students explore careers that they’ve learned about from Manufacturing Day tours.”

GLWA personnel shared how there were numerous options they offered for people hoping to find careers.

“Right now, we have an apprenticeship program that is a partnership with Focus: Hope,” Savage said. “They handle the applicant and testing process. This allows many students and young people to find a career they may have never considered before. This means they can take the traditional route to get here, but they don’t have to if that’s not something available or practical to them. We pay for the classes they need and let them work while they’re learning to get the on-the-job-training they need.”

Savage said seeing new opportunities like this can make a huge difference in a young person’s life, and added that he was speaking from experience.

“One of my major decisions to come here, when I was 21, came after I got laid off from a factory job,” he said. “I was told that if I wanted stability, I should join the water department, so I checked it out, and after 22 years, I’ve never had to be worried about getting laid off or losing my job.”

The students said they learned a lot about different careers.

“The chemists sounded interesting,” said Hollingsworth. “They make sure all the chemicals go in to clean the water and make sure everything works before they send the water out.”

“All the jobs were interesting,” added Cooper. “I still want to go into law, but I do find it interesting, and I think the apprenticeship programs they were talking about are things I might want to tell friends about, because jobs like this offer a stable career that you can count on.”

The GLWA employees said they see the advantages of exposing young people to different career paths every day.

“I really like Manufacturing Day because it gives me a chance to talk to the youth and let them know about the opportunities here. I did not know about the water department or jobs here until a painter I knew working for the city gave me an application for a water plant operator apprenticeship program,” said Savage. “I like letting young people, who may not know what to do with their future, know that there are a lot of career paths they might not even know about yet — careers you can retire from and support a family with.”