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Over 150 manufacturers to welcome more than 10,000 next-gen innovators

Three young men operating a machine

After the success of last year's Discover Manufacturing Week, which saw over 10,000 students participating, West Michigan Works!, in partnership with Discover Manufacturing and The Right Place, is preparing for the 2023 event on November 6-11. Educators and manufacturers from throughout the region are invited to be part of this initiative, which offers a glimpse into the world of advanced manufacturing to the next generation. The deadline for employer registration is October 1. Educators have until October 11 to sign up students.

This year's event is significant as it marks the return to fully in-person tours after the past two years of pandemic-related disruptions.

"Our mission is to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. The whole world seems shorthanded and it's more important than ever to expose students to the abundant career opportunities in our industry," said Jerry Hill, industry council lead for Discover Manufacturing, West Michigan Works!. "Students can see firsthand that manufacturing today is not their grandparent's factory and offers a great work environment with rewarding pay and unlimited growth potential."

Advanced manufacturing had 23 positions listed in the West Michigan Works! 2023 Hot Jobs List, with an average wage between $22 and $40 per hour. Occupations on the Hot Jobs List must show a growth rate of at least 4 percent (double the regional average) over 10 years; annual openings above industry averages; and wages at or above $14.30.

"The manufacturers who host tours do a great job of providing immersive experiences that highlight the full manufacturing process while engaging with students in a welcoming and encouraging way," said Nichole Lyke, economic development director, Barry County Chamber & Economic Development Alliance. "Students can ask questions about the products and goods being made, the variety of career paths, and how to apply for a position if they are interested. These experiences are important for retaining youth in your community and creating a workforce with the skills needed to support the local economy.”

Two women operating a piece of machinery

West Michigan Works! currently holds the standards for 22 apprenticeship programs for advanced manufacturing. Apprenticeships provide opportunities for employers to fill talent gaps and develop a highly skilled workforce. For students, apprenticeships are an alternative to a four-year college, offering specialized hands-on learning within the industry while getting paid.

"It was nice to highlight what we do and to show students that factory work is not all boring and dirty. They can take pride in getting a job outside of high school and be okay with not having a college degree if that is what they choose to do," said Heather Jimison, business manager human resources and purchasing, Flairwood.

Feedback from student participants each year is overwhelmingly positive. A student from Potters House noted, "The best part for me was learning more about part designing and manufacturing. It was cool to see how the scanner can pick up even the smallest imperfections between a manufactured part and the original part design.”

The interactions between employers and students not only invigorates the next generation visitors but it can also provide a boost to the morale and pride of the company's workforce.

"Opening our doors up to the students and seeing their reactions as they tour through the facility to see these beautiful yachts being built by hand from start to finish all under one roof is a great way to keep pride instilled in our employees,” said Joshua Murphy, senior learning and development specialist, Tiara Yachts.

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