Hononegah Education Manufacturing Connection lays out proposed goals

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Bob Geddeis, HCSHS Board member, talks with Vicki Brust, Career Tech and Education Dean at Rock Valley College.

One size does not fit all. Not every student graduating from high school is interested in pursuing a college degree. There have always been options, but many people believed graduating from a tech or trade school wasn’t in the same league as a four-year college degree.

That concept has changed significantly the last few years. High schools around the country are now working with trade schools, community colleges and manufacturers to provide career pathways for students who are interested in hands-on learning in a technical field of study.

Hononegah Education Manufacturing Connection (EMC) was formed two years ago with the intent of developing partnerships between the high school and regional manufacturing businesses.

The goal of the program is to bring local manufacturing companies in the Stateline area together with Hononegah Community High School (HCHS) students who are in the process of considering career choices. The program is based on the success of Hononegah’s Workplace Readiness program, with the goal of preparing students for the future.

The first meeting was held Oct. 14, 2019 at the school. Unfortunately after that, meetings were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two years later, on Oct. 14, 2021, EMC members, manufacturing and trade school representatives, business owners and Hononegah faculty members were able to meet at Hononegah to share information and discuss the growing need for employees and trained workers.

Retired businessman Chuck Gilbert and Dennis Weiland, Project Manager at Regal Cutting Tools, head the Leadership Committee, along with Hononegah Principal Chad Dougherty, Hononegah pre-engineering teacher Liz McLevige and career and tech teacher Sharon Bowman. All are part of a dedicated team of business and manufacturing people working to prepare students for future careers. “Our goal is to teach students how to become employable.” Bowman said.

Chuck Gilbert, Leadership Committee member for the Education and Manufacturing Connection (EMC), spoke to manufacturing, trade school and business representatives at the Oct. 14 information meeting held at Hononegah Community High School. The organization is working to provide information and options for Hononegah students who are considering career choices in manufacturing.

“Hononegah and EMC have come a long way in developing and supporting curriculums that prepare our students at Hononegah for careers in manufacturing,” Dougherty commented. “All manufacturing representatives want to get new employees. All are looking for workers.”

Bowman said the goal is to provide opportunities. “Students now have many opportunities to pursue internships with manufacturers through job shadowing, apprenticeships and job fairs.

“We want to change perceptions about the manufacturing industry,” Dougherty said. Our goal is to present a viable alternative to a four-year, post-secondary program.”

As their senior design project, three Hononegah students were chosen this year to work with Regal Cutting Tools, a Roscoe manufacturing company, in redesigning their tool-hauling fixtures.

“The idea is to have students select a product that directly benefits a local company,” project manager Dennis Weiland said.

“Liz McLevige was having trouble getting local manufacturers involved in supporting student design projects. We decided that if the final design had a direct benefit to a local manufacturer, the more the manufacturer would be compelled to participate.”

Students visited Regula Cutting Tools to assess the needs of the project and then began creating design concepts for the tool hauling fixtures. Engineers and manufacturer staff members oversaw the process.

The project is now in final design approval stage. Building a prototypes is the next step.

Weiland is pleased with the results of the collaboration. “It’s been a good experience for the design team and the end results will benefit Regal Cutting Tools.”

Education Manufacturing Connection plans to meet monthly at Hononegah. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11, 2021, at Hononegah Community High School, beginning at 3:30 P.M.

Goals moving forward are to:

  1. Place 15 students into internship positions with local businesses during the 2021-2022 school year, and to continue to develop relationships with local business to get them involved and interacting with the students.
  2. Provide manufacturers with access to potential employees through career exploration events such as Meet & Greet, Lunch & Learn, Job Fairs, Internships, Apprenticeships and Job Shadowing;
  3. Find effective ways for students under 18 years of age to gain exposure to manufacturing careers through work or intern opportunities
  4. Bring parents into the picture along with the students and faculty to promote job development and career opportunities.

An annual Career Fair at Hononegah is planned for next spring. Students will have the opportunity to meet with business and manufacturing representatives to gather information about job opportunities.

For more information about the program, contact Chuck Gilbert.

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