A massive observance of National Manufacturing Day at the N.C. Global TransPark on Tuesday will connect nearly 800 students from Lenoir and neighboring counties with industries in the region and, organizers hope, will help students connect their classroom lessons to the real-world skills of modern manufacturing.
Some 500 students from all LCPS high schools and middle schools will join public school students from Jones, Greene and Wayne counties at the GTP to spend several hours touring exhibits set up by 50 manufacturing-related firms and educational institutions, taking part in problem-solving challenges for prizes and getting a first-hand look at potential careers as diverse as aeronautics and heavy-equipment excavation.
For high school students, tours of one of more than 15 manufacturing-related facilities will precede their trip to the GTP. In Lenoir County, Moen, Eaton, Field Controls, DuPont and Mountain Air Cargo are among manufacturers hosting tours, expected to last from 9-11 a.m. US Cargo and AP Exhaust Technologies of Goldsboro and NWL Capacitors and Yamco of Snow Hill are among regional facilities on the tour schedule.
“It reminds them of what’s here in their own community,” Jessica Shimer, LCPS’s career development coordinator, said of the tours and the expo that follows. Shimer is pulling together the district’s contingent of students from its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in sustainable agriculture, the technical and engineering areas, machining, health science and family and consumer science.
Although the Kinston event is organized by the Lenoir County Manufacturers Association, its regional emphasis is only realistic, say organizers, since county lines don’t matter to manufacturers looking for the best workers or to young graduates looking for the best jobs.
“The most important criteria we hear from industry is the quality of the workforce and that begins right here at home,” Allen Thomas, executive director of the GTP, said. “We have some excellent, hard-working families across the East. It’s incumbent on us to expose our young people to the opportunities in industry right here in the region.”
The first Friday in October is officially designated as National Manufacturing Day, but observances – more than 2,700 nationally – are held throughout the month. North Carolina is home to more than 20 events, but none larger than the one held here.
The GTP was recruited as host site in 2016 when the MFGday observance expanded beyond Lenoir County. The size and success of that event – despite its being delayed two months by Hurricane Matthew and subsequent flooding – created momentum for this year, drawing a more diverse group of manufacturers, new vendors and expanded exhibits.
A few of the interesting tour stops waiting for students will be:
- An array of impressive earth moving and excavation equipment from the N.C. Department of Transportation. Last year, DOT had two stations on the tour where equipment was essentially static. This year, DOT’s presence has expanded to four stations and the equipment will be in use, digging and moving dirt.
- The Fleet Readiness Fab Lab from Fleet Readiness at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, which will give middle school students a feel for how computers figure into modern aviation repair, through 3D printing and digital training devices.
- East Carolina University School of Engineering, an observer last year – apparently impressed with what it saw – that returns this year as an exhibitor to provide students information on ECU’s program and careers in engineering.
Among the fun activities students can try are Goose Chase, a digital scavenger hunt played in teams; a dragster track built for model cars propelled by C02 cartridges and staffed by the TSA Club from Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School; and the “escape room” challenge, where STEM students from Greene County will set up a series of problem-solving challenges that teams have no more than 15 minutes to solve.
MFGday, from the games to the exhibits to the plant tours, is designed to focus students on critical thinking, teamwork and other skills important in the modern manufacturing process. The event will re-enforce the lessons and message LCPS’s CTE students get in class, according to Shimer.
“We’re showing them that real-world view. This is what they’re learning in the classroom looks like in the real world and this is why they’re being asked to do it,” Shimer said. “It takes that assignment a step further. This shows how it all connects.”
Sponsors of Tuesday’s event are: Master — DuPont, Pepsi, Chick-fil-A, Lenoir Committee of 100, Lenoir Community College, ElectriCities, Lenoir County Manufacturers Association, Lions Industries for the Blind, Resource MFG, Moen and the ECU School of Engineering; Journeyman — Lenoir County Economic Development, Duke Energy, STEM East, Wayne County Economic Development Alliance, MasterBrand Cabinets, Jones County, Barnhill Contracting Company, Eaton Corporation, West Pharmaceutical; Apprentice — Greene County Economic Development, Coeco, Kinston Jetport and Fly Exclusive.