Superintendents get schooled on modern factory jobs

So, your parents tell you that you have to go to college to be successful in this world. They warn you to stay away from blue-collar manufacturing jobs or other skilled labor that entails “working with your hands.”

Yeah, well, that kind of attitude is so 2008.

School officials from 11 local districts recently toured two Macomb County factories to get a close-up look at the new, high-tech version of industrial output that is commonly referred to as advanced manufacturing.

“They really opened our eyes wide,” said Romeo schools Superintendent Nancy Campbell.

“We have all been told for many, many years that your ticket to financial success is a college degree. But … things are changing in manufacturing, especially here in Macomb County.”

The tour, arranged by the Macomb Intermediate School District, espoused a continuing theme: Parents and educators have discouraged far too many students from pursuing vocational education by perpetuating the idea that manufacturing work is “dirty, dangerous and dull.”

What the educators saw were spotless factories where workers enjoyed their work and relied upon knowledge in math, science and computers to create metal products that require stunning levels of precision.

The superintendents were also surprised at how many industrial firms are actively seeking workers for good-paying jobs.

About 28 people, including aides to U.S. senators, House members and state legislators, participated in the bus tour that took the delegation to PTI Engineered Plastics in Macomb Township and SKF-USA’s Armada plant.

Afterward, about 70 officials and employers gathered for a luncheon discussion at the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center, where 1,000 high school students each day take their first steps toward a career in machinery, robotics, automotive, electronics, alternative energy, medical care or the culinary arts.

Among the firms on hand at the Washington Township facility were Avon Gear, Dynamics Plastics, Elite Plastics, Fori Automation, Hard Milling Solutions, KUKA Systems North America, Proper Group International, RCO Engineering and Triumph Gear.

The Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, which organized the tour and discussion, is planning for a bigger event in October, in commemoration of National Manufacturing Day, with every county school district taking part.

After years of layoffs and downsizing in the manufacturing sector — and in particular in the auto industry – county officials want to demonstrate that blue-collar workers are once again in high demand and many manufacturing firms are worried about labor shortages.

In terms of advice doled out by parents and teachers, the pendulum swung too far in the other direction over the past decade, creating a “manufacturing myth,” said PED Department Director Steve Cassin.

Campbell, a veteran educator, said she was particularly impressed that the workers she talked with were motivated and demonstrated considerable pride in the sophistication of their work. They were also pleased with the good pay and benefits and the company-paid education plan that arranges for them to go to school while working in order to learn additional skills.

“They have nice homes, nice cars, a cabin up north and they can afford to send their kids to college if that’s what the kids want. But no $100,000 student debts,” she said. “I think we’re now going full circle here. It isn’t just about going to college. It’s about what you can do.”

Those interested in assisting with the October factory tours can call Maria Zardis at (586) 469-5285 or send an email to

School officials from 11 Macomb County school district recently received a hands-on look at high-tech manufacturing.

Article Source: By Chad Selweski, The Macomb Daily
Posted: 3/11/14

Link to article: