Local high school engineering students recently received an up-close look at some of the places they might work one day, and learned some valuable lessons.
The Hernando and Pasco county commissions proclaimed Oct. 4 as Manufacturing Day, and to mark the occasion Pasco-Hernando Community College, under the direction of Margie Burnham, the college's Florida trade grant project manager, partnered with local manufacturers to welcome engineering students from Nature Coast Technical and River Ridge high schools.
Hernando students visited Accuform Signs, Alumi-Guard, Emery Thompson, AME, Time Wise Mobile Outreach Skills Training and Intrepid Machines.
At Alumi-Guard students began their tour by viewing a video that introduced them to manufacturing workforce needs and workforce advantages. Then plant manager John Halcomb led the students into the plant, where aluminum gates are assembled, painted, welded and boxed.
This impressed sophomore William Henriquez, 15.
"This is pretty cool," he said.
The students saw a demonstration of an aluminum stick being dipped into a high-pH cleaner, coming out noticeably lighter in color. If it were to be painted, it would be rinsed and sealed to hold the paint.
The students were shown bags of the powder paint the company uses — brown, black, yellow and white. It is baked onto the aluminum.
The tour continued with a look at the accessories packing area, where things such as post caps and scrolling are packaged with their hardware.
Halcomb explained why the company participated in Manufacturing Day:
"Chip (Howison, chief operations officer) and myself believe that these kids are our future. I've spent my life in manufacturing. I love it."
After a walk through the welding area, Holcomb took time to caution the students that getting a job often means needing to stay out of trouble. He said his company requires prospective employees to take drug tests and that he will not hire anyone with a criminal record.
Freshman Chandler Hatcher, 14, was impressed with the aluminum gate plant.
"I like Alumi-Guard," he said. "How they made all their fencing, machines; the welding was really cool. … I want to go to college and be an engineer."
The next stop for the group of students was the Time Wise Mobile Outreach Skills Training vehicle. They were met by Larry Meadows, who helped establish the company, which has five semitrailers and two recreational vehicles in 14 states.
The students entered and were each seated at computers, which can be programmed to instruct students in various skills. A manufacturer in need of skilled employees, such as welders, can contract with Time Wise, which will then advertise for and screen prospective employees. Then they will intensively train them for two weeks in the necessary skills.
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"If you can manufacture it," Meadows said, "we can devise a curriculum around it."
The last stop on the tour was Intrepid Machine. They were met by president Tim Tabor.
"A lot of the products we make we have to measure," Tabor said, emphasizing the importance of mathematics. "It's very important in manufacturing. Everything we make has to be checked."
Tabor was joined by company representative Kim Robbins, who explained how important the company's products are.
"We make the parachute release buckles for the United States Air Force pilots," she said. "The lives of our military depend on us."
The company produces precision parts for aerospace, aircraft, satellite, microwave and defense systems.
Freshman Adrianna Moore, 14, appreciated being able to "see what the different companies made and how they work." She hopes to go to Brevard College in North Carolina to learn how to make prosthetics. She explained that when she was a little girl, when her dog chewed the legs off her dolls, she would fashion clay legs to replace them.
Sophomore Kyle McInerney, 16, said he has been interested in manufacturing for a long time and was impressed with Alumi-Guard's welding. And he appreciated seeing the quality of production in both plants.
"I like that a lot of the parts are made for the military. Also it provides jobs for a lot of Americans," he said.
Kyle plans to earn a doctorate in mechanical engineering for the automotive industry.
"The harder you work, the more you succeed," he said.
He also took to heart what he heard on Manufacturing Day.
"When (Tim Tabor) said to keep your math up, that's what I already knew," he said, "I like all subjects, but math I push the hardest."