Arkansas high schoolers learn about opportunities in manufacturing

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 4:57 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Over the last two weeks, North Arkansas College Technical Center had nearly 500 local high school students learn about manufacturing and engineering careers at local companies.

Schools that attended included Bergman, Omaha, and Cotter, among others.

The event is held nationwide to connect the next generation of workers with local employees and inspire them to pursue a career in a trade.

Students toured PACE Industries, Wabash Wood Products, WestRock, Strand Composites, and Claridge in addition to speaking with college instructors. Most of the local industries are currently hiring new employees.

“Of course, we’re seeking employment and opportunities with individuals that have skilled experience,” said Kevin Inskeep, production manager with Claridge Harrison.

Inskeep says skilled workers are hard to find in today’s world. He says since being with the company in April, they have operated with roughly 150 employees out of the Harrison location, with full staffing to be around 240.

“We’ve got employees that have been here for 50 years. A lot of that workforce has retired,” Inskeep explained. “So a lot of that skill set and knowledge has gone out the door.”

This is why manufacturing days are just as crucial for local manufacturers as local students.

“What we’re trying to let these kids know is you can get a good quality of life and a good opportunity and stay right here in Harrison, Arkansas,” said Dr. Rick Massengale, President of North Arkansas College. “I’m hearing, ‘I just need people, I just need people.’ I want these kids to be prepared when they walk in. They’re not just getting people. They’re getting professionals.”

A difference that employers say is noticeable.

“Somebody that walks in has a little bit of education and has gone through that type of training, it is a little bit easier to pick up, they pick it up at a faster pace, it’s very beneficial to us, and we notice it right away,” said Inskeep.

North Arkansas College is expanding its manufacturing and robotics programs with a new facility on the south campus. The $8 million facility will house 32,500 square feet of manufacturing, machining, robotics, and electronics equipment for instruction.

Construction is anticipated to begin at the beginning of next year, with the hope it will be open for use at the start of the Fall 2024 semester.

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