STEVENSVILLE — It was Manufacturing Day with a twist.

Instead of manufacturer’s showing high school students what their company’s produce, it was the students’ turn to show potential employers what they would bring to the table.

“Here we work on brakes and steering. We do hands-on work in the shop, working on cars,” Jackson Christner told a group of area employers. 

In an engine room, the Career Technical Education students take apart and put back together a complete engine. 

Christner is a senior at Berrien Springs High School but spends two school hours a day at Lakeshore High School in the automotive lab. 

“About 20 percent of our CTE students come from other schools. And some of our students go to other schools for programs we don’t have,” said Lakeshore Schools Superintendent Phil Freeman. He guided area manufacturers on a tour at Lakeshore High School as part of Manufacturing Day, hosted by Michigan Works. 

In past years, students have traveled to manufacturing facilities on the annual Manufacturing Day, but this year, the potential employers came to them. 

“Seeing what’s happening at the high school level is very important. Maybe we’ll find someone for our career path,” said Chip Spear, plant manager at Hanson Mold in St. Joseph. He was among representatives from about 30 companies that took part in tours at Coloma High School, Lakeshore High School, Brandywine High School, the Van Buren Tech Center and Southwest Michigan College Niles Campus. 

Paul Brohman, business account manager for Michigan Works, said about 20 percent of the area’s manufacturing employees are 55 or older, so it’s important to connect employers with the next generation of workers at an early age.

“In manufacturing, we’re losing not just people, but those years of knowledge,” Brohman said. Freeman said the schools have made a lot of connections with employers but, when it comes to what the schools are doing, “We want them to hear it from the kids.”

Lakeshore High School offers programs in automotive technology, machine tooling, computer assisted design (CAD) and welding. Lauren Wolf, a junior at Lakeshore High School, was among the students who led the employers on a tour of the machine tool area.

“I hope to become an engineer one day, and seeing how things are made gives you a better understanding for when you’re engineering things,” she said.

Noah Raye, a senior at Lakeshore High School, is in his second year of the welding program.

“I wanted to learn how to weld. I’m actually going into the Marine Corps. after high school but later want to go into machine tool technology or welding,” Raye said. 

One of the employers said there is a huge need for future welders.

Manufacturing Day is an annual national event that brings together manufacturers, students, teachers, parents, job seekers and other community members to showcase modern manufacturing technology and careers. 

Michigan Works of Berrien, Cass, Van Buren is part of a statewide network of workforce development boards, specializing in educating, training, and getting people employed. 

Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa