Careers Take Center Stage at CVTC Manufacturing Show
It was a big moment for Dylan Heidtke of Chippewa Falls. The Chi-Hi senior sat at a table on a raised platform in a room full of people and signed a commitment to his future. Applause followed.
He wasn’t signing for a big athletic scholarship, but to something the local economy needs: a commitment to a career in manufacturing. For Heidtke, it will start with the Welding program at Chippewa Valley Technical College. He signed his commitment in a ceremony leading into CVTC’s annual Manufacturing Show Thursday, March 7.
“It was nice to be recognized,” Heidtke said. “It’s like the next step in becoming an adult, with me making my own decisions.”
Getting more people interested in careers in manufacturing is one of the purposes of CVTC’s annual Manufacturing Show, held at the Manufacturing Education Center in Eau Claire. The show drew high school students, parents and community members alike for a firsthand look at modern manufacturing through CVTC’s Automation Engineering Technology, Industrial Mechanical Technician, Machine Tooling Technics, Manufacturing Engineering Technologist, Mechanical Design, and Welding programs.
Over 50 local manufacturing companies were also represented with display tables highlighting their products and job opportunities, with many on active recruiting missions during a student career fair just prior to the show’s opening.
The career choice seemed natural to Heidtke. “Welding is second nature to me, and it pays well, too,” he said. “The technical college is very affordable and they have more to choose from than other schools I looked at.”
Kendra Weber, CVTC recruitment and business development manager, said the signing ceremony was modeled on one held by a national organization honoring students choosing technical education.
“We wanted to bring it to a more local level and we felt aligning it with the Manufacturing Show and the career fair would be a good fit,” Weber said. “It’s a way to recognize our incoming students for their commitment.”
The 22 students from 19 schools who signed their commitments then had an opportunity to tour an area manufacturing facility, then return to the Manufacturing Education Center for the start of the Manufacturing Show.
“This is an opportunity to show off the technology of modern manufacturing,” said Jeff Sullivan, CVTC’s dean of manufacturing and other areas. “The Manufacturing Show brings together alumni and people in the area, and shows off student projects. Our manufacturing partners come in and show the things they’re doing.”
Robotics clubs from several area school districts competed in the VEX Robot Challenge in which robots they constructed were designed to complete a series of tasks. Both middle and high school students took part in an event that was both fun and educational.
“The students are learning team-building activities, an introduction to robotics, and problem-solving,” said Greenwood High School technical education teacher Noah Werner. “Plus, it’s a neat activity. They do all this on their own time and have fun with something that interests them.”
Some visitors were amazed at the level of manufacturing technology on display. Jan and Sharon Gunderson came from River Falls, and Jan proudly showed a card identifying him as a 1960 graduate of what was then called the Eau Claire Technical Institute in the Machine Shop program. He said when they arrived they headed right to the lab in what is today the Machine Tooling Technics program, where he got a look at the modern computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines.
“This was just awesome. We enjoyed this so much,” Jan said as they prepared to leave after touring all the programs.