This Friday, Callaway County high school students will don colorful T-shirts and safety equipment to learn about local manufacturers.
"Manufacturing is such an important piece of any community, including ours," said Tamara Tateosian, executive director of the Callaway Chamber of Commerce. "We want to support our manufacturers and help them develop the workforce of their futures."
During National Manufacturing Day, about 80 students from the county's four high schools will tour four area manufacturers: Mid America Pre-Cast, Henderson Truck Equipment, Danuser Machine Company and PFS Brands. Organized by the CCoC, the event aims to develop the county's workforce by inspiring future skilled workers to find jobs within the county.
On a national level, more than 250,000 students participate in Manufacturing Day activities. Last year, about 75 students visited Backer's Potato Chips, AZZ and Danuser, three of the county's most prominent manufacturers. By the end of the day, at least one student was ready to request an application.
"We've had kids come out of National Manufacturing Day and say, 'That's what I want to do. I want to learn how to use that machine,'" Tateosian said. "If we can plant the seed with one kid, we've done our job."
Tateosian said few realize Callaway County is home to 20 manufacturing companies — including 12 in Fulton alone — which employ 1,772 of the county's 20,200 workers.
She added there's a public perception manufacturing jobs are dull and repetitive, taking place in dingy factories. That perception isn't accurate for a majority of manufacturing jobs, she said.
"I worked in manufacturing for 15 years," Tateosian said. "It's a skilled trade."
Some jobs require engineering, programming and precision machining skills. Many take months or years to master.
"These people are doing skilled jobs that make good money you can raise a family on in your hometown community," Tateosian said.
She said these jobs may be particularly appealing to students who want to enter the workforce soon after graduating from high school, or would prefer attending a technical or trade school rather than a four-year college. School counselors helped pick students who fit that description to attend Friday's tour.
"We're showcasing that there are jobs available in Callaway County, whether you're straight out of high school, you've graduated from a technical college or have a four-year degree," Tateosian said.