Local Students Explore Careers at Manufacturing Day. CVTC hosts students from 14 school districts.
Leading a group of Durand High School juniors on a tour of the Industrial Mechanics lab at Chippewa Valley Technical College, instructor Jeff Johnson showed the group a simulated manufacturing center that utilizes automation and robotics to accomplish various tasks. Then he showed them equipment students use to learn about the electronic, pneumatic, hydraulic and other systems that make it all work.
Exposing high school students to such technology and how it is used in industry today was one of the primary purposes of CVTC’s observance of Manufacturing Day Friday, Oct. 5.
“Our goal is awareness of the opportunities in manufacturing in the Chippewa Valley,” said Jeff Sullivan, dean of manufacturing and skilled trades at CVTC. “We’re collaborating with our local high school teachers in doing career planning with the students.”
Manufacturing Day is an annual nationwide event held the first Friday in October. CVTC typically marks it with groups of students from area high schools touring its Manufacturing Education Center, listening to panel discussions by current CVTC manufacturing program students, and taking part in some hands-on activities. For about half of the day the students tour local manufacturing plants.
Included this year was a pilot project focusing on Industrial Mechanics that involved Durand and Altoona students. Among one of the more intriguing activities involved a science and math experiment. A ping pong ball was placed in a hollow plastic tube, with different kinds and thicknesses of materials placed on each end. As air was pumped out of the tube, eventually one of the materials would fail, causing an inrush of air that would shoot the ball through the opposite end.
“The exercises we have planned help them learn to solve problems using math and science,” Sullivan said.
“The students are seeing small examples of things that tie directly into the real world,” said Kyle Danzinger, tech ed teacher at Durand High School. “They may see a machine only moving something three inches and have to troubleshoot why it isn’t working right. There are people who do that sort of thing for a living.”
Danzinger brought six students, all juniors, to the event. He didn’t know how many might be seriously exploring manufacturing careers, but there would be time for them to determine that for themselves.
“We need to expose them to it,” he said. “Maybe they like it, or they may learn that they don’t.”
Sullivan explained that the students involved in the pilot project spent time on fluid power, information technology and mechanical skills.
“This is a good program because we are all working to get kids career ready,” said Mary Ann Hardebeck, superintendent of the Eau Claire School District, which had students taking part in a SkillsUSA welding competition. “It’s great that they get this hands-on exposure.”
While the students were exploring manufacturing careers, they were also exploring CVTC as a place to prepare for such careers.
“We have a lot of students asking about CVTC,” said John Hiebel, who with fellow tech ed teacher Steve Anderson brought 33 Chippewa Falls Senior High School students.
“This opens their eyes to what this place has to offer,” said Anderson. “The skilled labor trades has more to offer than getting a four-year degree.”
“Many of the people getting the two-year technical degree are making more money coming out of college than the ones with the four-year degrees,” Hiebel added.
“Students here are getting exposure to what’s out there,” said Bloomer tech ed teacher Darren Swartz. “A lot of students don’t even know this stuff exists. It’s always a plus to get them out of the classroom and see what’s actually happening – where the jobs are and where the money can be made.”
Also participating were students from Blair-Taylor, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, Fall Creek, Menomonie, Neillsville, Boyceville, Ellsworth, Independence, River Falls and Winter schools, plus others that came for the welding competition.