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‘Heavy Metal Tour’ collaboration a success

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Provided photo)
Students from Rochelle Township High School are pictured at Nippon-Sharyo in Rochelle, one of their visits to local industry during the Heavy Metal Tour on National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 4. Students from Rochelle, DeKalb, Sycamore and Genoa-Kingston high schools plus Kishwaukee Education Consortium students toured local industry and Kishwaukee College to learn about manufacturing and how to prepare for skilled jobs in the field.

National Manufacturing Day was Oct. 4 and industry across the country celebrated in a variety of ways, from advertisements to open houses. But in Ogle and DeKalb counties, the day was marked with a unique collaboration between Kishwaukee College, Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, DeKalb Ogle County Workforce Consortium, local industry and area high schools that was called the “Heavy Metal Tour.”

The Heavy Metal Tour included more than 100 students from DeKalb High School, Genoa-Kingston High School, Rochelle Township High School, Sycamore High School and the Kishwaukee Education Consortium. Participating local industries were Algus, CST, Driv-Lok, Greenlee-Textron, Ideal, Illinois River Energy, Nippon-Sharyo and Sycamore Precision.

The day was the culmination of two months of planning by a diverse group of organizations that shared one common purpose: to energize area young people toward the possibilities offered by working in industry. 

“This was an amazing event that opened students, counselors and industry to the opportunities of collaborating on the development of a strong local workforce,” Karen Schmitt, executive director of the Kish College Center for Business Development, said in a news release. “It was so much fun to see the excitement and interaction. Having the students see industry first-hand was powerful! The students were engaged and professional and industry was impressed. This is only the beginning of what is possible.”  

National Manufacturing Day was established to expand knowledge about and improve general public perception of manufacturing careers and manufacturing’s value to the U.S. economy. The idea behind it is to draw greater attention to the outstanding opportunities that a career in manufacturing can provide and promote the pursuit of skills that will lead to a long-term career that offers growth for qualified candidates. The Heavy Metal Tour took this mission to the next level.

The premise of the Heavy Metal Tour was to have area high schools tour industries in their local communities to see and be inspired by the technology and creativity that goes into production of goods that impact the quality of life and that are necessary for society to move forward. After touring the industries, the students visited the Kishwaukee College Career Technologies division to learn about the educational programs that provide the critical training for the skilled positions in the plants they had just toured. The students spent the morning seeing industry in action and the afternoon seeing how they can become part of it.

“This particular event was unique not only because it targeted high school students, but because area economic leaders made it a priority to spend the day with the students and the manufacturers,” Chris Blumhoff from IMEC said in the release. 

“We were excited because this event linked up students with industry,” Sara Pohl, Dean of Career Technologies at Kish College, said in the release. “They learned about what goes on inside industry and the possibilities there. I think many of the students were surprised by their tours of industry – that this type of activity was happening right in their hometown. It was an eye-opener for them.”

All of the organizations, industries, and educational institutions involved in the Heavy Metal Tour agree that the day was a huge success and that it will become an annual event on National Manufacturing Day.

For specific information on manufacturing programs at Kishwaukee College, visit www.kishwaukeecollege.edu/aet. For general information on manufacturing, visit www.imec.org/.

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