Fecon recently hosted a group of 440 students from Berry Intermediate School, giving them a firsthand look at highly lucrative engineering careers available within the manufacturing arena. The sixth grade students watched engineers perform computer aided design and analysis and then witnessed automated welding machinery and learned about the math required to program it. All of this underscored the importance of math and science, even at the junior high school level.
“We appreciate the opportunity to host school groups like this,” said Fecon President John Heekin. “Manufacturing offers great career opportunities but the work is getting more technically demanding – so more math and science is required. Showcasing the computer design and analysis involved helps students – especially at the junior high school level – realize that math and science careers can be rewarding, and cool.”
According to Principal Mark Graler, the trip’s goal was to make the students realize the abundance of good jobs right at home in Lebanon, in fields such as engineering and math.
“To help students get an idea of the kind of job they could have someday, if they pursued a track of higher level math or science skills, and allow them to see those skills in action,” he said. Before going out onto the production floor, the students got a first-hand look of the engineering wing of the facility. “Seeing the semi-like size of the machines and laser-cutting tools used on a daily basis, gave the students a good idea of what they could be doing, if they take care of their school work,” Graler said.
The “ah-ha” moment for many of the sixth graders was seeing all of the equipment the engineers deal with.
“They are standing at these big machines operating three keyboards and seven monitors making sure all these things work like they are supposed to work, so that the product turns out the right way,” Graler said.
Students learned that even a tiny screw in a machine is designed by someone before it is placed into it, which helped them think more critically. Moreover, many of the students realized even if they did not want to get into the production side of the facility, it had other departments as well, including marketing, accounting, and customer service.
“There are all these other components of manufacturing that you can be a part of, even if you aren’t doing the actual manufacturing”, commented Graler.
Naturally, students enjoy being away from the classroom every-once-in-a-while, but they benefitted by seeing firsthand what post-education careers might look like.
“Something we struggle to do in the classroom every day is to make things real for the students,” Graler said, adding that portraying career opportunities is hard to replicate in a classroom setting. “We can Skype with people in remote places, or we can be online looking at things, and the kids certainly explored the Fecon website…but none of that really compares to being here, seeing the functioning workplace.”
Graler also pointed out that this hands-on experience made the students aware of the importance of “soft skills,” like being on time to work every morning, getting along with others, and getting the job done right the first time – traits that every employer looks for, regardless of field. It was a win-win situation for both students and teachers at Berry.
“It was a really great day,” Graler concluded.
Those sentiments are echoed by Heekin and other manufacturers who struggle trying to fill manufacturing positions. Hopefully field trips like this one will open students’ eyes to the possibilities of manufacturing careers…and that might make their math and science courses a little more bearable,,,if not fun.