Industry leaders encourage students to pursue careers in manufacturing

Memphis' strength as a manufacturing hub will be on display October 6 when 600 Shelby County Schools students will visit 14 Mid-South factories to learn about careers in the industry. 

For the fourth consecutive year, the Greater Memphis Chamber, the Workforce Investment Network and the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce have organized student doors in recognition of National Manufacturing Day.

The importance of introducing kids to the local manufacturing industry is multifaceted, according to Ernest Strickland, Greater Memphis Chamber SVP of Workforce Development.

“We want young people to know there are great career opportunities within the manufacturing space. We want them to know there are opportunities right here in Memphis and Shelby County," he said.

"And we want them to understand what field are needed for those occupations, giving them a better understanding of how the lessons they are learning today will lead to them obtaining those opportunities of tomorrow."

Participating schools this year include Booker T. Washington High School, Cordova High School, East High School, Germantown High School, Kingsbury Career Technology Center, Kirby High School, Manassas High School, Sheffield High School, Southwest Career Technology Center, Whitehaven High School and Wooddale High School.

Each high school will tour a different Memphis-area company, which this year includes Barnhart Crane, Coca-Cola Company, Competition Cams, Expedient Data Center, Flextronics LTD, Jordan Aluminum Extrusion, Medtronic, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc., National Guard Products Inc., Olympus Surgical Technologies America, Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt, SFI Tennessee and Steel Warehouse Company.

South Pemiscot High School from Missouri will also tour Olympus Surgical Technologies America, located in Bartlett.

“One thing we have going for us is we have a lot of young people. Other communities are really envious of the number of young people that we have, and we’re wanting to get them plugged in to opportunities so that they can see Memphis as a place where they stay, live and work," said Strickland, underscoring the Chamber's priority in retaining Memphis' youth to enter the workforce.

On the tours, the students will get exposure to state-of-the-art equipment and processes and they will have the chance to talk with current employees about careers in the industry.

In 2014, Memphis’ gross metro product topped nearly $8 billion with 900 manufacturing firms employing more than 44,000 people. Nationally, manufacturing supports more than 18.5 million U.S. jobs.

“We’re in a unique position in Memphis. Because of our strong logistics infrastructure, more companies are wanting to locate their manufacturing closer to where they’re going to ultimately distribute their goods from,” said Strickland.

“So we’re able to leverage our logistical strengths for attracting and retaining manufacturing companies.”

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Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.