Local high school students explored their career options on Manufacturing Day at four area businesses.
Seventy-five high school students from Fulton, North Callaway, South Callaway and New Bloomfield spent their Friday looking into career paths within the local manufacturing industry. The group was given tours and met with the men and women behind the scenes at Danuser Machine Co., Henderson Truck Equipment, Mid-America Precast and PFSbrands.
"This is an opportunity to showcase the jobs that we have available in Callaway County for our students," said Tamara Tateosian, executive director of the Callaway County Chamber of Commerce.
Sponsored by the chamber, Manufacturing Day is now in its fourth year in Callaway County. It was originally created by Founding Partner Fabricators and Manufacturers Association in 2012.
The students in attendance were all juniors or seniors and were selected by their teachers and counselors because they're undecided on whether they want to go to college or trade school.
Throughout the various tours, there was a consensus among professionals in the manufacturing industry the next generation's workforce will be crucial to keep the industry thriving as the "backbone of America." Among the students, a large number of them showed serious consideration into making a career in the field.
"(These manufacturing jobs) are important, definitely important. Without them we wouldn't have most of our machines and things that keep this country running," said Joshua Haubner, a North Callaway High School senior.
Many of the students on the tours came from backgrounds with lots of hands-on experience doing various tasks these careers would demand. Haubner said Henderson Truck Equipment piqued his interest as he had already helped his dad build a dump truck in the past.
Among the, there was only one female student in attendance, Pikake Barrozo, a Fulton High School junior. During the tour at Danuser Machine Co., the company's Vice President Janea Danuser said she was surprised at the lack of female students at this year's tour.
"I always correct (one of my coworker's) when him and I do tours together because he'll use the male pronouns, and at one point in time, we had four women welders. I pointed out to him, 'Hey, there are women welders, there are women machinists, there are women that can do these fields,'" Danuser said.
During a presentation to the students, Danuser said more than 14 percent of the company's workforce was comprised of women. Barrazo was not discouraged by being the only woman in attendance — she said she is a fan of "dirty work."
"I like hard work; I couldn't do office work," Barrazo said. "My dad works at Dollar General, and there are a lot of girls that work there — more than I thought there would be."
There was an emphasis throughout the tours of keeping graduates within the Callaway County workforce. Danuser said she went to college in Texas and then lived in Washington state for two years and decided to come back home for work.
"We need people to come back, bring their skills and want to live in this thriving community. It's about supporting the community," she said.
New Bloomfield junior RJ Bishop said he would like to work at each of the businesses he toured Friday. He was fascinated by the processes at each of the businesses from the assembly line to the warehouse.
"I want to go to (State Technical College of Missouri) in Linn. I feel like these jobs are overlooked and underappreciated. Without them, you wouldn't have a lot of buildings that are around us," he said.
South Callaway High School junior Jordan Renner held many of the same sentiments. He thought the tours were "fun" and could see himself in those positions in the future.
"I see myself doing a manufacturing job. I'm trying to see if I can go into being a heavy equipment operator, a foreman or a welder. My favorite tour was at Mid-America Precast," he said.