For the second year in a row, the Manufacturer’s Roundtable and the Thomaston-Upson Chamber of Commerce teamed up to bring a Career Expo to Upson-Lee High School with 18 businesses and vendors participating. The event allowed nearly 700 juniors and seniors to see what type of career fields are available locally, and hopefully help them narrow down to what they would like to do once they graduate.
The Thomaston-Upson Manufacturer’s Roundtable is not only comprised of representatives from local industries, but are also represented by the Thomaston-Upson County School System, Southern Crescent Technical College, the I.D.A., Upson Regional Medical Center, D.O.T., Department of Labor, Economic Development, and the City and County Government. Jeff Stribling, Plant Director of Quad Graphics as well as Chairman of the Manufacturer’s Roundtable, stated that many industries had mentioned a need for highly skilled technicians noting that nowadays they are hard to come by and from that discussion, the idea for the Career Expo was born.
“Our workforce is aging, our equipment is becoming more and more complex, (automation, robotics, plc’s,) and there is a dire need for skilled technicians, both mechanical and electrical,” said Stribling. “Communication and sharing the needs with our partners is the key to resolving problems.”
In order to make a start at bridging the gap with technical skilled pathways, Stribling noted that the group decided the best route would be to educate both teachers and students on the needs of manufacturer’s first and then go from there. This past summer nearly 40 educators toured local industries to get a feel of what the needs are for each company so that they could better prepare their students who may be considering going into that area for a career. The next step was to educate the students and the career expo allowed them to see what goes on at many of the local manufacturers.
This year 18 different companies and vendors participated in the event including: Upson EMC, Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Department of Labor, Upson EMS, Southern Crescent Technical College, TenCate Protective Fabrics, Thurston volunteer Fire Department, Southern Power Company, AWC Inc., KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Inc., Quad Graphics, Applied Industrial Technologies, Georgia Power Company, Chief manufacturing, Middle Georgia State College, Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute, Upson Regional and Grainger. Dr. Larry Derico, Director of Curriculum/Instruction for Thomaston-Upson Schools, was pleased with the turn out this year and is thankful for the businesses and vendors who took place in the initiative.
“This has been our attempt to close the skills gap and learn what we can do to better prepare the students who may have jobs in these areas,” said Derico. “We wanted to get the juniors involved so that they might start thinking about what they want to do for a career and the seniors are about to be out in the workforce and we wanted to give them the opportunity to see what options they have.”
Junior Ausha Green enjoyed speaking with the different representatives at the expo and felt it gave her a good idea of what types of jobs are offered in her hometown.
“I feel like since we are about to graduate, this gives us a good chance to see the career side of the world around us and can help us decide what we want to do,” said Green.
However, not everyone shared her sentiments. Seniors Akelia Raines and Natalie Riosales didn’t feel the expo had much to offer for their chosen fields of study, being law and business respectively. Both noted they would have liked to have seen more businesses and careers that did not have to deal with technicians and manufacturing.
Upson-Lee High School Principal Tracey Caldwell stated that expanding to include more career fields is something that had just been discussed the morning of the expo. He noted that including other occupations such as law enforcement or agriculture to next year’s event will help benefit all types of students. Caldwell also noted he is very appreciative to the Manufacturer’s Roundtable, the Chamber and all of the companies who took their time to come and speak with the students.
“This gives the students good exposure to what goes on in these industries,” said Caldwell. “We can talk about it in class, but the expo gives them the chance to see some of it firsthand.”