Story by Mike Christen – The Daily Herald
Maury County’s Landmark Ceramics, Columbia Machine Works and Armada Nutrition will host 120 Mechatronics and Project Lead the Way students from Maury County Public Schools for a Manufacturing Day event on Friday as part of a national effort to showcase modern manufacturing careers and connect with future workers.
There is an increasing demand for highly skilled professionals in the manufacturing sector who can design, program and operate technology. Over the next decade, manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs. Organized by The Manufacturing Institute — the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers — MFG Day, established in 2012, is designed to introduce young people and others in the community to the thriving manufacturing industry to change perceptions of manufacturing and highlight the high-tech and innovative work companies are doing today.
During the program, students will experience the high-tech and innovative work environments locally available to those who pursue careers in modern manufacturing. They will be introduced to a local training program that can help prepare them for those careers as well as financing opportunities available through tnAchieves.
During Friday’s session, participating students will come from Mt. Pleasant High School, Hampshire Unit School, Central High School, Culleoka Unit School, Spring Hill High School, and Santa Fe Unit School and meet with representatives from Landmark Ceramics, Columbia Machine Works, Armada Nutrition, Maury County Public Schools, Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance, Columbia State Community College and tnAchieves.
The sessions have been coordinated in a collaborative effort between Maury County Public Schools, Columbia State Community College and Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance.
Since 2016, Maury County Public Schools and Columbia State Community College have been working in unison to offer a joint mechatronics program made available to students through dual enrollment.
The curriculum offers Maury County’s high school students the ability to earn an associate degree of applied science in advanced integrated industrial technology alongside their high school diploma.
Students also have the option to graduate with a technical certificate.
Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of science that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electronics, computer engineering, telecommunications engineering, systems engineering and control engineering.
During the 2017 Manufacturing Day event, students from Columbia Central High School toured Columbia Machine Works’ more than 50,000 square-foot facility as workers fabricated tools and equipment used by companies across the United States including General Electric Co. Workers are also dispatched from the shop to repair and maintain equipment at manufacturing plants across the country.
The same day, students from Spring Hill High School toured the nearby General Motors plant.
“I want students to know that there is an alternative to going to college and it is a good alternative,” Columbia Machine Works president and owner John K. Langsdon III told The Daily Herald before the start of the tour.
Langsdon said he is looking for future employees and the programs offered by Maury County Public Schools provide a strong basis.
He said that many of the skills required to work at Columbia Machine Works cannot be taught in a traditional classroom.
“We are looking for young people who present themselves well but have a drive to actually do something,” Langsdon said. “I just need a good work ethic and I will do the rest. When clients call us it means that sometimes hundreds of people can’t do their job.”
The curriculum offered by Columbia State, Spring Hill, Columbia Central and Mt. Pleasant high schools works to give students a strong fundamental understanding of each field to become adaptive members of Tennessee’s large and rapidly changing manufacturing industry.
The local program was funded partly through a Labor Education Alignment Program 2.0, or LEAP Grant, provided by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The partnership enforces Maury County Public School’s “Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness,” a set of standards for the school district’s students collectively set by members of the community. It is made in direct correlation to Key 7, setting the goal that all students participate in advanced placement, dual enrollment, industry certification, work-based learning or military preparation before they graduate from high school.