Oakland students tour manufacturing facilities

Event dispels myth that ‘it’s dirty, it’s rusty, it’s not a desirable job’

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published October 11, 2017

OAKLAND COUNTY — Students curious about pursuing a career in advanced manufacturing and skilled trades recently had the opportunity to tour a handful of manufacturing facilities, locally and across the country.

On Oct. 6, more than 500 students from the four Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, among other local schools, were invited to participate in Oakland County Manufacturing Day.

According to organizers, the third annual event is a celebration of advanced manufacturing and the skilled trades, and it is designed to help educate students on careers in the manufacturing field.

The event kicked off with over 200 students at 7:45 a.m. at the Oakland Schools Northeast Technical Campus in Pontiac.

“This is a national event happening all across the United States, and every year since 2012 it’s an opportunity for us to bring high school students and even middle school students to the manufacturing facilities so they can actually see what modern manufacturing is all about,” said Irene Spanos, Oakland County director of economic development and community affairs.

The event was created because local educators saw a talent gap in the manufacturing realm, Spanos said.

“We came together because we see a need. There’s a talent shortage. We came together and said we have to grow more workforce and more talent in this space that exists today,” Spanos said.

Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, thanked the students for taking the opportunity to explore different career paths.

“Days like today are absolutely fantastic to be able to take a look around and see what’s really out there. So thank you very much for what you do. You are the future. And don’t be afraid to take the time to figure things out. What you’re doing today will help with that,” Curtis said.

Students were given a light snack and a T-shirt before boarding a bus for the tours.

Students were invited to the Comau Inc. Innovation Center in Southfield, GKN Driveline and Hirotec America Inc. in Auburn Hills, Lear Corp. in Rochester Hills, and Moeller Precision Tool in Wixom.

Spanos said the event is a low-pressure opportunity for students to get a feel for potential career paths.

“This is really to change the perception of manufacturing. A lot of these young students, they have the perception that it’s dirty, it’s rusty, it’s not a desirable job. But when they walk into these modern manufacturing facilities and they see the reality with robots, the materials, the automation, the cleanness, the high-tech-ness of manufacturing, they get excited,” Spanos said. “Hopefully, they’ll consider a career in advanced manufacturing.”

The event is quite hands-on, Spanos said.

“They’ll go on an actual plant floor tour, and they’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and participate. Some manufacturers are going to have a hands-on experience, like welding for the welding students, so they’re going to get real-life experience as to what manufacturing is,” she said.

Curtis gave the students a few encouraging words before they hit the road.

“I don’t want to bore you with a bunch of statistics and the need in Michigan — I know. You’re welcome. What I would rather do is say it’s OK to be exploring what you want to do, and you may not know what you want to do,” he said. “Follow your passion, follow your interests and follow what you think you’d like a career in, and it’s OK if you change, too.”