Dedrick Collins, a trainer, talks about manufacturing jobs to students from Stevenson High School.

Dedrick Collins, a trainer, talks about manufacturing jobs to students from Stevenson High School.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Macomb County Manufacturing Day 2018 biggest yet

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published October 11, 2018

  Zack Baranski,  a junior at Warren Mott High School, practices his dexterity —  a skill needed on assembly lines.

Zack Baranski, a junior at Warren Mott High School, practices his dexterity — a skill needed on assembly lines.

Photo by Deb Jacques


MACOMB COUNTY — The average person may not notice, but the manufacturing industry is changing every day.

As has been customary for the past five years, Macomb County held its annual Manufacturing Day on Oct. 5. The event is part of a national campaign designed to invigorate a youthful generation, giving them a firsthand glimpse into how the manufacturing industry affects day-to-day life and offers often lucrative careers that help stimulate the overall economy.

This year marked Macomb County’s highest participation rate, with 82 tours given by 72 host companies to approximately 2,400 students hailing from every school district in the county.

In the early hours of Oct. 5, students from Stevenson High School, of Utica Community Schools, and the Warren Career Prep Center, of Warren Consolidated Schools, toured the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. Warren Truck Assembly Plant, where about 3,200 employees work.

Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Director John Paul Rea said the entire notion of Manufacturing Day countywide was originally spurred by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who visited with students Oct. 5 to see up close and personal how advancements are occurring in real time.

It is about breaking down barriers, Rea said, by connecting students in high school classrooms to possible future careers in an ever-evolving field.

“We realized there was no mythical or special thing to help these manufacturers,” he said. “It just started with them being committed. … It was facilitated and geared toward bringing in talent.”

Understanding the process-based industry is a truly special thing, Rea noted. When local companies are able to entertain homegrown solutions for talent acquisition, everyone is positively affected — on both the education and industry sides — and the county is the convening element.

“It’s inspiring. You see the way these students interact with employers, and you see that spark of interest; you see that spark of creativity. … It truly becomes a talent attraction exercise,” Rea said.

Wendi Gentry-Stuenkel is the head of supply chain management for FCA across the U.S. Her position, responsible for all assembly and powertrain plants, entails a long-range planning vision, aimed at delivering vehicles to customers.

She said what is really important to her and her company is that younger individuals realize manufacturing is a good career.

“It can be a really rewarding, challenging career full of problem solving and technology,” she said. “They can earn a certainly nice living.”

The day itself is helpful for two reasons: using it as an advocate for the entire auto industry, while countless industries vouch in competition for the future experts in the talent pool.

After 29 years at the helm, Gentry-Stuenkel believes the real challenge today involves identifying problems and dealing with them in different ways.

“I think the requirements for leadership have changed, and the soft skills have changed in terms of how people work together in teams, how they demonstrate creativity and problem solving, and the (amount of) opportunity for growth in the industry,” she said.

Rea said the mutually beneficial career exploration involved in Manufacturing Day includes everyone: students, administrators, teachers, counselors and superintendents. He said this style of collaboration leads to better dialogue, especially in a field that has “drastically” changed in the past five years alone.

Gains in employment, investments and technological innovations — such as the progression of manufacturing into advanced manufacturing, and next-generation mobility being utilized by the auto industry — are “night and day.”

“We are talking about some of the greatest transformations and the way business works, and it’s happening here in Macomb County,” Rea said.