On the production floor of Coresix Precision Glass, the hum of machinery fills the room. With focused care, employees handle glass worth thousands of dollars; it will end up in high tech devices. On Friday morning, the steady pace of work is interrupted by a group of students walking through.
Students looked curiously at employees as they smoothed the rough edges of glass or washed pieces under water using ultrasonic waves. The group’s guide, Justin Lawson, Operations Manager for Coresix, narrated, telling the high schoolers about everything that goes into making the final product.
Friday, six groups of students from Williamsburg-James City County schools visited local factories and manufacturing plants for Manufacturing Day, a day dedicated to teaching them about career opportunities in the field.
Glenn Marshall, a member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, said its is a great way to expose students to the world of manufacturing.
He said most people think of manufacturing as standing on an assembly line doing one task over and over again. Marshall said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“In a lot of cases, the factory workers are probably one of the smaller components in a manufacturing operation,” Marshall said.
Marshall said manufacturing is an all-encompassing business. It employs everyone from lawyers and contractors to material handlers and engineers.
“We have the whole gamut of career opportunities for people,” he said.
One local program that helps introduce and prepare students to work in manufacturing is New Horizons.
New Horizons Career and Technical Education Center is a regional undertaking owned and operated by six local school divisions: W-JCC, York County School Division, Gloucester Public Schools, Hampton City Schools, Newport News Public Schools and Poquoson City Public Schools.
New Horizons offers courses that train students for jobs that do not require a college degree. Students instead can get a national certification in a range of skills. Classes are offered at both its Butler Farm Campus in Hampton and Woodside Lane Campus in Newport News.
“The CTE program (New Horizons) provides things for students to learn anything from construction, HVAC, welding — and those particular programs lead to national certifications,” said Casey Roberts, executive director of New Horizons Regional Education Centers, in his office on the Butler Farm Campus. “And those national certifications are the gateway for those particular students that want to go out into the career world to find employment.”
This year, New Horizons has increased the number of Career and Technical Education Center course offerings available at its Woodside Lane Campus, which benefits students in W-JCC because it’s closer.
/pb: this is just plopped here — you don’t say anything about w-JCC participation other than how long the bus ride is.//
Roberts said last year, New Horizons started the Advanced Technical Careers Academy, where students work toward securing a job upon graduation in the construction, manufacturing or automotive fields.
“When you are doing an academy such as this within the framework of a school, we are in uncharted territory,” Roberts said. “There are certain examples out there that have been done, but for the region, it has not been done, and we’re actually keeping a scorecard and following kids as they matriculate through this academy.”
The academy is advised by the Academy Business Industry Council, which is comprised of 12 local business, according to Roberts. He said while the demand for workers in these industries is high, workers are not always available. By working alongside private industries, he said public educators are able to learn from those in the business world.
Roberts said he thought the first year of the program was very successful. Last year 36 students in the program signed on with employers.
“It shows a good framework for public-private partnership,” Roberts said. “I don’t think anyone of us alone has the silver bullet to meet the needs of our growing economy, but together we have the knowledge … to get students and their gifts and talents in the raw state to a refined state so they can become employable or go off to post-secondary opportunities.”
In the future, Roberts said New Horizons hopes to expand the academy to include other areas of study as well.
But there are resources outside of New Horizon in our area for those looking to go into manufacturing. Marshall said Newport News Shipbuilding offers a program called “Career Pathways,” where shipbuilders work directly with students, teaching them about the field.
Students can still pursue a college degree after getting a job in the manufacturing field. Marshall said Newport News Shipbuilding has a college re-reimbursement program and will pay for students to earn degrees after successfully completing an apprenticeship.
“This continuous learning cycle is definitely promoted by employers today, where it's not ‘you came with a degree, you get a job and you stay in that job forever,’ but ‘we want to have you continuously learn and improve and to elevate and become leaders in the organization,’ ” Marshall said.
But Marshall added there are plenty of students with college degrees who can’t find jobs in their fields, so they sometimes go to into apprenticeship schools to get jobs in manufacturing.
“These folks that are going to college and getting a degree are unfortunately finding out that what they are picking as a career path is not what people are looking at hiring, and then they go to an apprentice school where they learn the skills that they need,” Marshall said.
One student who saw the attraction of manufacturing was Ava Wunibald, a Junior at Jamestown High School. She said she loved seeing the process of how glass parts were created at Coresix.
“(The tour) made me think there’s so much more that goes into (manufacturing) than I really thought,” Wunibald said. “That made me think that’s something that really interests me, I would want to do something really similar to that.”
While groups of students exited through the lobby of Coresix, some may be back in a few years as employees.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about New Horizon’s Career and Technical Education Center visit nhrec.org/ctec/. For more information on ATC you can visit nhrec.org/ctec/academy-for-advanced-technical-careers/.
For more information on the Career Pathways program through Newport News Shipbuilding you can visit nns.huntingtoningalls.com/career-pathways/.
To find apprenticeships through the U.S. Department of Labor in different fields, or even different states, you can visit dol.gov/apprenticeship/.
Companies that participated in Manufacturing Day include Owens-Illinois, Five Forks Water Treatment, Nicewood Enterprises, Printpack, Ball Corporation, Coresix Precision Glass and Anheuser Busch.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.