To celebrate Manufacturing Day, the NGage economic development group hosted student tours of local factories for the third year.
Roughly 40 students from Beatrice and Southern high schools spent their Thursday visiting Precise Fabrication, Exmark, Neapco and Landmark Snacks.
Walker Zulkoski, the executive director of NGage, said the goal of Manufacturing Day is to change the perception of manufacturing.
“There are plenty of opportunities," he said. "It’s not just assembly lines or heavy machinery, there’s office jobs and there’s high-tech jobs and there’s welding, logistics and storage and all sorts of fun things. We just wanted to bring some awareness so that when students are looking at opportunities after school, they can go right into the workforce."
BHS reported that 26 out of 167, or 15.6 percent of students in the Class of 2019 said they were going into the workforce right after graduation.
Zulkoski said NGage does not track how many of those students participated in the manufacturing tour, but that they’ve seen increased attendance since the tours started.
Zulkoski said he’s seen students in these tours asking for applications and seeing how soon they can work.
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“It might just be people are thinking differently than they use to about ‘I’ll go to a two year school, I’ll go to a four year school or continue to go to college.’ It’s ‘I want to go work for a little while and figure out what I want to do,’ and this is a good chance for them to go do that,” Zulkoski said.
David Verkler, a value stream manager for Exmark, showed the students the different operations in the plant, like the marketing division and the robots they use to manufacture equipment.
“We have a lot of opportunities where people can get some functional experience in sales and inside sales and marketing,” he said. “All those opportunities have entry-level positions where you don’t need a degree. You can try it out, take this as your first step and see if this is a career that you want, which will likely lead them to want to continue this and get a bachelors or associates degree in it.”
Christie Moore, who works in the customer service department, said many of the customer service representatives previously worked in the plant area because they’re familiar with potential complications.
Moore said Exmark needs quality employees in all positions, though, because that’s what keeps the business running smoothly.
Verkler said the goal of Manufacturing Day for the businesses is to introduce students to what they do and what skills they need that the students can potentially provide, whether that’s with or without a college degree.
“Every year, we will bring in anywhere between 20-50 new employees,” Verkler said. “A good portion of which did come from Beatrice High School, but likely not recently. Usually, they’ve entered the work force for a couple of years and then come to us because of better pay, better opportunities.”