STEVENSVILLE — Want to make great money while receiving free training right out of high school?

Then consider a career in manufacturing, said Dave Goodenough, director of the robot/technology development department at Edgewater Automation in St. Joseph said. He spoke Monday during College & Career Night at Lakeshore High School in Stevensville.

Goodenough said manufacturing is a $2.9 billion industry in Cass, Van Buren and Berrien counties, with the average income of a person in the business being around $85,000 per year.

By 2024, he said more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs will be created in Michigan.

“That’s 45 percent higher wages and 50 percent faster growth,” he said.

People in manufacturing work with new and improved CNC machines, 3-D printing and scanning, laser welding, cutting and inspection.

“Lasers are getting to be a huge aspect as far as manufacturing goes,” he said. “... People are needed to run them. People are needed to set them up. People are needed to keep them going.”

He said artificial intelligence and virtual reality are starting to come into play.

“It’s amazing what’s starting to happen in this field,” he said.

He said many companies offer apprenticeships for toolmakers, mechanical designers and electricians.

“We have some kids that are designing machines for us and they’re like 19 years old, 20 years old,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing watching these kids come out of high school, go through this design apprenticeship ... and they’re basically starting from scratch, they’re learning it from the ground floor up, and now they’re starting and they can design the machines.”

In the apprenticeships, the training is usually paid for by the employer, he said. And employers will often pay for workers to go to college.

“Imagine having no college debt,” he said.

Goodenough was one of 19 presenters during the high school’s first college and career night, Assistant Superintendent Julie Powell said.

“Our goal is to provide information that helps families in planning for a career after high school,” she said. “That could mean college. It could mean trades, military, local businesses.”

Students in grades 7-12, along with their parents, were invited.

The almost 400 parents and students at the event started by choosing to attend four presentations on a rotational basis. After that, they could browse through almost 30 booths set up by businesses, colleges and technical schools in the hallway.

Depending on the feedback from participants, she said they may hold a college and career night every year or so.

Superintendent Phil Freeman said that in the 1980s, there was a push to send all students to college.

“Unfortunately, that’s not always the best pathway for our students,” he said. “Nowadays, when you’re making decisions, they’re expensive decisions with the cost of college. I think looking at other options are really vital to us.”

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege