Manufacturing Day 2020 becomes a month-long virtual event

Manufacturing Day — where high school students traditionally are introduced to the many job opportunities at local industry — is expanded this year.

When the event’s planners canceled student tours at local plants because of the coronavirus, they expanded Manufacturing Day to a month-long virtual event on the Chamber’s website that will target students of all age levels, educators, and parents.

“It’s really an opportunity to see all that manufacturing has to offer,” said Cathi Roberts, Completion Coordinator, Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) Co-op at Jackson State Community College.

The virtual event includes a welcome by Miranda Cox, a Jackson State student in the AMT Co-op who also works at TBDN; panel discussions where educators and employers will answer questions submitted by students and parents; virtual tours of local manufacturing facilities; and other resources that celebrate and recognize the role of manufacturing.

Manufacturing Day is sponsored by the Jackson State Engineering Systems Technology Program, the Jackson Chamber, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Pathways, and the Southwest Tennessee Workforce Development Board.

“Manufacturing is not just about production or maintenance,” Roberts said. “It includes the front office and many other opportunities. If you like accounting, there’s a job for you in manufacturing. If you like health care, there’s a job for you in manufacturing.”

Roberts is particularly pleased that the virtual event will have information for parents. “Parents don’t tell their children, ‘I want you to grow up to work in manufacturing.'” Parents will change their attitudes about manufacturing when they learn about the jobs and salaries manufacturing offers, she said.

Jackson State’s two-year program in Engineering Systems Technology prepares students for jobs in manufacturing and gives them an associate of applied science degree.

Students like Cox, who want to earn money while they attend college, can apply for the AMT Co-op. Students work three days a week at one of about 30 participating manufacturing plants and attend Jackson State two days a week. The starting salary for the internship is $12 an hour. “Our average student graduates on a Saturday and has a job paying $20.59 an hour on Monday,” Roberts said.

A new cohort begins each fall. Twenty-three students are enrolled in the seventh cohort that began in August.

Jackson State’s program has earned national recognition. The Manufacturing Institute selected it as one of three schools to participate in the institute’s live FAME event during October. AMT Co-op graduate Zach Stoops, who works at Henderson Stamping Inc., is on one of the institute’s panels.

For more information about Manufacturing Day and to attend the virtual event, visit the Chamber’s Economic Development section on its website at jacksontn.com/economic. Look for a square labeled, “Southwest TN Manufacturing Day” under Workforce.

You will learn a lot, Roberts said. “Manufacturing is not what you think it is.”