Manufacturing Day gives students glimpse of industry

Great Bend Tribune: Dale Hogg
October 2, 2019

The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development is joining forces Friday with several Barton County businesses to hold the first local Manufacturing Day. Dubbed Made in GBK, this event ties into the national Manufacturing Day held annually on the first Friday in October since 2012.

The goal of this observance is to showcase the contributions of this economic sector by introducing local students to it, said Megan Barfield, chamber director of member relations. To focus on modern manufacturing careers, companies and educational institutions open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders.

“Manufacturing Day is an opportunity for manufacturers to show their communities what they do, highlight the economic importance of manufacturing, and draw attention to rewarding manufacturing careers,” Barfield said. “Students get the chance to see firsthand how many types of jobs are available in the manufacturing sector from welders and engineers to designers and marketing professionals.” 

For this first year, the chamber is partnering with Fuller Industries, Great Bend Industries, Eldridge Fencing, Superior Essex, Great Bend High School JAG-K and Barton Community College, Barfield said. Nearly 120 students will get the chance to tour these facilities to learn more about manufacturing right here in Barton County.

The high school JAG-K (Jobs for America’s Graduates) students are 9-12 grade. The BCC students are from the automotive program. 

“Manufacturing is a top employer in our region. These are good, well-paying career options,” said Fuller Chief Executive Officer Mark Chalfant. “We want to expose these students to the possibilities of working in manufacturing and staying right here in Great Bend.”

Chamber President Jan Peters said they have high hopes for this and want to make it an annual occurrence. The idea is for it to become a tradition, much like the chamber’s Kids Ag Day, which has shown fourth graders farm life for 26 years.

The day of activities concludes Friday evening at Fuller Industries which is hosting a chamber After Hours reception from 5-8 p.m. There will be food, beverages, plant tours and a presentation by Chalfant.

A big deal

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, more than 18.5 million U.S. jobs are supported by manufacturing, and every dollar spent in manufacturing creates $1.40 for the U.S. economy. U.S. manufacturing being the ninth largest economy in the world and making up nearly 12% of our country’s gross domestic product.

Nationally, manufacturing accounts for 4.31 percent of all jobs. In Kansas, that number is between 5.7-7.5 percent.

According to Barfield, in other communities that hosted a Manufacturing Day event for students in this format, several interesting statistics were reported:

• 84% of students were more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding.

• 64% of students were more motivated to pursue a career in manufacturing.

• 71% of students that participated were more likely to tell friends and family about manufacturing after attending an event.

Manufacturing Day was created by Founding Partner Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International in 2012.