Ten juniors and seniors from Beatrice High School were among more than 200,000 high school students around the country to take part in national Manufacturing Day on Thursday.
As a part of Manufacturing Day, BHS students took a trip to several manufacturing sites around town, all part of a partnership between Beatrice High School, NGage and the manufacturers students visited.
“Keep your head on a swivel and have fun,” said NGage Executive Director Walker Zulkoski before students made their first stop at Continental Carbonic Products. “These guys do cool stuff, so take it all in.”
Continental Carbonic, which makes dry ice in a variety of forms. Located about a mile north of the Homestead, BHS students got a chance to see what goes into making dry ice.
Assistant Plant Manager Leroy Coffield walked the students around the plant, showing the different sizes of dry ice—which is carbon dioxide in its solid form. Coffield, who has been with Continental Carbonic for six and a half years, got his start in one of the company’s factories in Ohio and made his way to Beatrice about a year ago.
Coffield hopes the BHS students will find inspiration on Manufacturing Day, and come away with prospects for their future.
“I like to talk about the fact that we promote from within to try to get people to realize that hard work does pay off,” he said. “That's the biggest thing. Hard work and dedication pays off in the end.”
That’s the whole point to the tour, said Jen Prososki, a guidance counselor at Beatrice High School. High school is all about getting ready for the adult world and, while some kids will head on to college, some want to get out and start working right away.
“It’s just to let them know their options after high school,” Prososki said. “We want them to be college and career ready. That way they know, if they enjoy doing more hands-on work, they know that there are options here in Beatrice.”
A four-year or two-year degree isn’t for everyone, Zulkoski said. The purpose of Manufacturing Day, he said, is to show students that there are opportunities waiting for them in their own community.
“It's not like the old steel mills, dirty working,” he said. “There's some high tech stuff in manufacturing and by getting kids out to see it, it's going to open their eyes and their minds.”
Manufacturing can include a variety occupations, he said. There are the assembly line jobs, of course, but there are also sales, engineering and marketing jobs available. On top of that, there’s an opportunity to move around until you find the spot that fits you.
Students also visited Worldlawn Power Equipment’s world headquarters, which produces home and commercial grade lawnmowers, as well as snow throwers and other equipment.
Their final stop was at Neapco—founded as the New England Auto Products Corporation in 1924—which produces original and aftermarket driveline components for cars, trucks, ATVs and other vehicles.
Matt Miller, safety and environmental manager at Neapco, told the students that even if they decide they’d like to attend college while working there, they can make it happen.
“You can come here, work full-time, go to college full-time and get both of them knocked out at the same time, and still not be missing anything or accruing any tuition,” Miller said. “It takes a little time and a little extra effort, but you're going to find out from a majority of us that we all started out on the floor and worked our way through.”
Erin Chadwick, an NGage employee assisting with the tours, said the goal of the day was all about opening the students' eyes to possibilities.
Seeing the clean, comfortable facilities that offer good working environments were different than the dirty, sweltering factories that a lot of people tend to picture when they consider manufacturing.
“I think the locations that gave tours today were so different in scope,” Chadwick said. “It's pretty eye-opening for them, I think. There's been some light bulb moments.”
Working with high school students and getting them engaged with local industries is the key to keeping a younger generation in Beatrice, Zulkoski said.
“We have great industry and really good jobs," Zulkoski said. "We just need to get that information out into the schools and to the kids so they stay here or come home.”