Imagine, as a high school student,seeing the connection between your classroom work and future career. Not just seeing it in a figurative sense, but literally walking through the halls of the company where you might one day work, hearing the sounds of the machines in operation and watching the workers who make those machines run.

That view of the future is a reality for students in the St. Joseph School District thanks to a program of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of students toured nine companies in St. Joseph during the

Chamber’s annual Manufacturing Day in early October. St. Joseph has hosted the program for two years, but it occurs all over the country on the same day.

“It’s really nice to be able to come out here and see everything actually being put together. It’s really impressive how they go from scratch to putting it together and the finished product,” said Liam Hummer, Central High School senior.

Hummer was among the 550 students who took part in Manufacturing Day this year. The experience not only gave him handson experience, but it also showed him how his classes at Hillyard Technical Center translate to the workforce. “Everything we do at Hillyard has a spot here. It’s really impressive to see how everybody has a place and everybody comes together,” said Hummer.

Middle school students from Bode, Robidoux, Truman and Spring Garden attended Manufacturing Day, along with high school students from Benton, Central, Lafayette and Hillyard.

“Students had the opportunity to ask the industry experts about how they got started in their professions,” said Dr. Dennis Merritt, HTC director. “We heard great conversations between students and professionals

who do the job each day.”

The experience also provided an opportunity for teachers in the district to learn firsthand the expectations of those leading innovation in the manufacturing industry. This event also gives educators a better idea of the skills students need to fill these types of jobs.

“I have the pleasure of working with top notch employers who are interested in the future workforce and invested in making St. Joseph a great place to work and live. It is great to see industry and educational leaders working together to enhance the future workforce of our community,” said Kristie Arthur, Director of Workforce Development for the Chamber of Commerce.

Students spent the day touring manufacturing sites that included Altec Industries, Bluetree Casework, Boehringer Ingelheim, Gray Manufacturing, Herzog Contracting Corp., Nor-Am Cold Storage, Reardon Machine Co., Snorkel and Summit Truck Group.

“It’s a great option and it shows all the students that we have options and we have cool places like this to go and definitely shows us what we could be doing and accomplish,” said Hummer.

Even though middle school students are still a few years from graduating, they appreciated the chance to get an early glimpse into the career options available.

“It was a great opportunity to see what a future job may look like. I now have a better idea of what goes into manufacturing,” said Kally Horn, Spring Garden Middle School student.

Although the main focus for Manufacturing Day is to connect students to desirable and highlyskilled career options, one company also included an opportunity for parents to participate. Gray Manufacturing hosted sessions for parents to show them the changes that have occurred over the years in the manufacturing industry and allow them to see why this career path could be a good option for their kids.

“It allows them to know that there are great opportunities with several businesses within our community and these opportunities are waiting for them when they graduate,” said Jill Huntsman, HTC Assistant Director.

Events like Manufacturing Day are part of the district’s broader commitment to educating students about college and career readiness and available career pathways.

“The counseling department in our district has worked diligently to inform students of the specialized career pathways in St. Joseph. Manufacturing Day allowed secondary students to observe several pathways including natural resources agriculture, health services, and industrial and engineering technology,” said Dr. Chris Hubbuch, Director of Secondary Education.

Everyone who attended this year’s Manufacturing Day received shirts with the “Made With Uncommon Character” logo. Those organizing the event felt highlighting St. Joseph’s new brand during the event was a great fit.

“We feel like the city’s new brand is reflective of manufacturing in St. Joseph,” said Arthur. “We’re proud of what we make here and people who use both their hands and minds have an abundance of quality character traits, so using the ‘Made with Uncommon Character’ theme makes sense for our program.”