Manufacturing Day, Observed
Ogeechee Technical College

About 100 eighth-graders took a look inside three local manufacturing plants and Ogeechee Technical College's industrial maintenance training lab Oct. 6 for Manufacturing Day.

The middle school students also heard from representatives of participating industries Briggs & Stratton, Great Dane Trailers and Viracon over lunch provided by the Development Authority of Bulloch County in Ogeechee Tech's Natural Resources Building.

"We're glad to be a partner in it, and really probably the most important part is working with the Board of Education to get younger kids interested in manufacturing as a possible career," said Development Authority CEO Benjy Thompson. "Eighth grade might seem young to some people, but it's not young at all in terms of trying to get people interested in what they might do when they grow up."
Rachel Barnwell, the Development Authority's economic development programs manager, coordinated the event with the three manufacturers, Ogeechee Tech and the Bulloch County Schools.
"It's a national day, Manufacturing Day," Barnwell noted "It's recognized across the country."
She observed that the official day was Friday, Oct. 7, but that an event can be scheduled on any day around that time. In fact, the national website specifies the first Friday in October, but then adds "any day can be a Manufacturing Day."
The local choice of Thursday, Oct. 6, proved especially fortuitous when school was cancelled the next day as Hurricane Matthew approached. But Thursday's weather remained calm and comfortable.

Four middle schools
Students from the four middle schools operated by the Board of Education - Langston Chapel Middle School, Portal Middle High School, Southeast Bulloch Middle School and William James Middle School - participated. So did a few eighth-graders from the Transitions Learning Center alternative program.
Counselors were asked to help identify students who might be interested, and 104 signed up, reported Teresa Phillips, the school system's executive director of school improvement and CTAE. The initials stand for career, technical and agricultural education.
"We want to help students be aware of different careers, especially in our region, and there are several misconceptions about manufacturing," Phillips said. "We want to try to provide students with what manufacturing really is."
Students were divided into groups that took turns visiting each of the three industries. Human resources managers and other staff members at the manufacturing sites told students that contemporary manufacturing is generally clean, comfortable work and that safety, training and quality control are emphasized.

Industries up-close
At the Viracon plant, which fabricates architectural glass panels, Human Resources Manager Sabrina Vasher told eighth-graders, "We take glass and make it awesome."
The Viracon plant does not actually manufacture glass. Instead, workers and state-of-the-art equipment start with annealed glass sheets, heat temper them and apply coatings. Two sheets of glass held apart by an edging material, and with the space b etween filled with argon gas, create an insulated panel. The company makes some products that are bullet- or hurricane-resistant. The new One World Trade Center in New York has Viracon glass, as do some Las Vegas casinos.
After Vasher talked about some of the 72 different jobs at the plant, Human Resources Trainer Raphael Pantin explained the protective equipment required to work in the production areas. Then he called on a few children to join in a race to see who could put on the gear, including an apron with leggings, ear plugs and safety glasses and two different layers of gloves, fastest.
None of these manufacturers hires eighth-graders, but at Briggs & Stratton, students learned about an internship program where they might get jobs when they are in 12th grade. Last school year, which was the first year of the program, the small-engines factory employed four high school seniors as interns, said Briggs & Stratton Human Resources Manager Amanda See.
Currently two 12th-graders, one from Southeast Bulloch High School and one from Statesboro High School, are interning at the plant. They work 16 hours a week, from 6:30 until 10:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday, and get company-provided training and learn real skills, See said.
During the round-table discussion over lunch, Chris Conner, sales engineering manager at Great Dane Trailers, told students that Ogeechee Tech has a great welding program if any are interested in becoming welders.
"If you do see a hands-on skill that you're interested in, you kind of need to start looking at that early," he said.

OTC participation
This was the second year a Manufacturing Day event has been held here. The same three industries participated last year, but the visit to Ogeechee Tech was new this year. Students saw the now fully equipped industrial maintenance training lab.
In all, eight staff members from the three industries talked to students about manufacturing careers over lunch. OTC Vice President for Economic Development Jan Moore emceed the discussion, and she and Admissions Director Molly Bickerton invited students and their families back for Ogeechee Tech's open house, Oct. 29, 9 a.m. until noon.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


Contact Information

Barry Turner
Vice President for College Advancement
Phone: 912.681.5500 | Email:


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