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Heavy Metal Tour showcases manufacturing opportunities

MALTA – Zakary Lewerenz, a senior at DeKalb High School, said he thought it would be interesting to learn about various trade skills before making a career decision.

He added it was better to learn about opportunities now, rather than blindly picking a career and later realizing he might not like it.

Lewerenz was among dozens of area high schoolers students who visited Kishwaukee College on Friday as part of the annual Heavy Metal Tour, an event which introduces students to local manufacturing opportunities they might want to pursue after graduation.

DeKalb students were first given tours of the Target Distribution Center and H.A. Phillips. Sycamore students toured Sycamore Precision and AutoMeter Products. Genoa-Kingston students toured J6 Polymers and IDEAL Industries.

Jennifer Charles, a volunteer and former counselor at Sycamore High School, said the event is important for students who might not be interested in a four-year program and would rather pick up a trade skill.

"For some students, college is not their thing, but they do like things that are hands-on," Charles said. "With this, they can see a different side of the career aspect."

While at Kishwaukee College, students toured programs involving welding, automotive work, electronics, horticulture and other skills.

Charles Raimondi, electronics instructor at Kishwaukee College, said some of his students come into his classes with almost no knowledge but are eventually building robots and other devices.

"Everything you see here, somehow or someway you'll be using it," Raimondi said.

Zachery Caccia, assistant professor of welding at Kishwaukee College, also pointed out the financial incentives of learning a trade skill. He said that a pipeline welder recently visited the college and said he was making $5,500 a week.

The whole event is part of a nationwide effort known as Manufacturing Day, which educates students to learn the necessary skills to land a job.

Gene Fogle, industrial workforce coordinator for the DeKalb/Ogle Workforce Development Consortium, said education can sometimes fall short of developing the perfect worker and students might not get practical skills to succeed.

"You don't have to be interested in machine jobs, but you can look at what other jobs might fit into that," Fogle said.

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