Hononegah event helps high school students consider manufacturing careers
On Thursday evening, Oct. 20, representatives from Stateline manufacturing companies and educational institutions gathered at Hononegah Community High School for a career exploration event, Immersion – Bringing Community and Learning Together.
The old saying, “One size fits all” doesn’t always apply. How about career opportunities that don’t necessarily involve earning a four-year college degree? A college degree may not appeal to all students graduating from high school, or may not be financially possible.
There are alternatives. Perceptions are changing. Trade schools and community colleges are increasingly offering hands-on learning in a variety of fields.
Three years ago, retired businessman Chuck Gilbert and Dennis Weiland, project manager at Regal Cutting Tools in Roscoe, began a crusade to bring local manufacturing and business representatives together with students from Hononegah Community High School. The project would be beneficial to the manufacturing industry as well as students. The team’s objective was to put together a curriculum that would teach students how to become employable.
Education Manufacturing Connection (EMC) began with the goal of changing the perception of the manufacturing industry. They wanted to make students at Hononegah aware that, while a four-year degree is essential for many careers, there are alternatives.
Hononegah Community High School Superintendent Michael Dugan was enthusiastic about the program, as was Principal Chad Dougherty.
The leadership committee was formed including: Principal Dougherty, Pre-Engineering teacher Liz McLevige, Career Tech teacher Sharon Bowman, Gilbert, and Weiland.
Hononegah’s Workplace Readiness Program, led by Business Education teacher Jason Brunke, compliments the EMC Connection concept in preparing students for life after high school. Denise Werner is chair of Career Tech Education and is also on the Workplace Readiness team.
Although COVID virtually shut down the EMC program the last couple of years, the team is now back at work developing and supporting curricula for Hononegah seniors, and connecting students and manufacturers through career exploration events, such as Lunch and Learn, Meet and Greet, and career fairs.
Included in the program are opportunities for job sharing, shadowing, apprenticeships and internships.
Rock Valley College is among the schools that offer two year programs in many manufacturing fields that include education classes as well as on-the-job training. Northern Illinois University provides career services and work/study programs. CEANCI is an education program that prepares students for careers and college through partnership.
At the recent career exploration event, Dougherty addressed the large crowd of parents and students: “Hononegah and EMC have come a long way in developing and supporting curriculums that prepare students for careers in manufacturing. If a college degree is not the right path for you, there are other options.”
Education and manufacturing representatives attending were:
- Rock Valley College
- Northern Illinois University Career Services
- Schafer Industries
- All World Machinery
- Taylor Company
- Quantum Design
- Scot Forge
- Thompson Pipe
- Regal Cutting Tools
- Emerson Electric
- Machine Tool Builders
- GWS Tool Group