Twelve years ago as PlastiCert’s newly hired Operations Manager, now President/Owner Craig Porter knew that in order to achieve growth, access to new workforce would be key. That did not just apply to the health of his manufacturing company but to the health of the regional economy. So he took steps early to assist in efforts toward working with area youth.
Over ten years ago, Porter was a charter member of the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business/Education Task Force which soon became a standing committee. He also served as one of its first chairs helping lay ground work for new initiatives. Programs like taking new district teachers on a guided bus tour of the city’s industrial areas where synopses of industrial companies were provided. Information is provided on not just what they do, but what types of career opportunities are available for the students they would soon be teaching.
During his tenure he also was a part of establishing a future career fair for high school students. An interactive, “hands on” stressed display by area employers on what careers they have to offer and the education and training involved in obtaining employment.
It’s grown from 3 high schools participating to now over 14. Porter is also a presenter in the Winona Chamber’s CEO in the Classroom program. Targeted at 8th grade students preparing to transition to high school the next year, its message is focused on prodding them to start connecting their education to career readiness. The CEOs tell them what they are looking for in their salaried and hourly staff regarding traits, work ethic and skill sets. They talk about the types of careers there are in the area, their pay ranges and what level of education is necessary for them. The Winona Area Chamber was one of the first in Minnesota to implement the program and is helping broaden its use in chambers throughout Minnesota.
PlastiCert sponsors the Lewiston-Altura High School Super Mileage Team. We also sit on their Project Lead the Way Advisory Board. We have engaged their teachers and made numerous speaking appearances on manufacturing and engineering. PlastiCert has entertained visits from Career Exploration classes, talking about careers in manufacturing and then providing examples by touring the production and office areas. We attend their design engineering class project review day and provide insight and feedback on their efforts and how their work reflects real world. PlastiCert is invited to help judge their annual Rube Goldberg Machine competition, another class within their Industrial Sciences Department.
PlastiCert tries to volunteer for the area’s regional science fair held every year in February. Participating as a project judge, they visit with the student scientists talking about their efforts in documenting and carrying out their hypothesis, investigation and results.
PlastiCert’s engagement with education does not stop with the local high schools. PlastiCert has a seat on the Winona State University Composites Engineering Industrial Advisory Board. Meeting semi-annually, PlastiCert along with other companies provide guidance and feedback to help WSU’s Composites curriculum to remain relevant and beneficial to students looking to join the engineering field. With seats on the equipment acquisition subcommittee and scholarship fundraising group, PlastiCert is well acquainted with the college’s senior administration, faculty, and student body surrounding the Composites Department. PlastiCert often has one or more interns working full or part time around their classes, gaining experience and providing their energy and new ideas.
While sometimes exhausting, PlastiCert feels duty bound to help provide insight and guidance for manufacturing related careers. While half the country worked in manufacturing back in the 1940’s, around 9% works in manufacturing now. Locally, that number is more like 18%, but visibility is not what it used to be. In order to generate the awareness and interest in manufacturing careers, manufacturers should be marketing themselves to potential employees as much as they ty to find potential customers.