SCOTTSBLUFF — Students from schools around the area gathered at Western Nebraska Community College to take part in Manufacturing Day.
WNCC, along with the City of Scottsbluff, offered the program for the third year. Scottsbluff Economic Development Director Starr Lehl said there were 110 RSVPs for the event, which featured speakers Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and WNCC Interim President John Harms.
Following the opening comments, students were taken to tour facilities at Scottsbluff industries in Scottsbluff and B & C Steel, CS Precision Manufacturing and Murphy Tractor & Equipment in Gering before returning to the college for a job fair.
“When people think of Nebraska, they’re inclined to think of our history of being an agricultural powerhouse,” Foley said. “That we are, and that we will be out into the future. We’re No. 1 in cattle on feed. We’re No. 2 in ethanol. We’re No. 3 in corn and so forth. We are an agricultural powerhouse, but the story of Nebraska doesn’t end there. One hundred thousand Nebraskans went to work today in high-tech manufacturing.”
Foley said those manufacturing jobs are scattered across the state, producing everything from lawn mowers to subway cars to nearly every piece of agricultural equipment.
“We’re exporting these goods all around the world stamped made in America, made in Nebraska,” he said. “So, we’re very proud of these manufacturers and we want to expose our young people to career paths that are available to them that they might not have thought of, working in high-tech manufacturing.”
Student Frank Ancira of Scottsbluff said he wants to go into auto body repair, but he was encouraged to hear the benefits and pay opportunities as he toured CS Precision in a group that included Foley and owner Scott James. Ancira said his mother worked in a similar occupation at Kurt Manufacturing in Lyman, and James encouraged him to go tour that facility as well.
“(James) said this is basically what they do,” Ancira said. “He said that would be really cool if I go check theirs out, too, because it’s way different from here.”
Harms said Manufacturing Day is very important as young people look at different opportunities. Not all students are equipped to complete a four-year degree program, or even a two-year program.
“If you really want to go to work quickly and make some really good money to start with, this is the time to do it,” Harms said. “Come out here or go to any community college and get the kind of training you need to go to work immediately and get an internship, apprenticeship with some of the companies that are here.”
Foley said many manufacturers are struggling to find a workforce to fill their needs.
“There’s a tremendous workforce shortage in Nebraska and really nationwide,” Foley said. “This is an issue that’s going to be a challenge for us out in the future. These companies need more workers. I spoke with a business leader the other day and he said, ‘Every time I get an order for new equipment, I fill 85% of that order to at least satisfy my customer to the extent that I can, but I can’t fill 100% of all my orders because I just don’t have enough workers.’
"As these young people become aware of that, their horizons are broadened, and they start to realize there are a lot of great career paths right here in Nebraska. There are good jobs with good companies with good paychecks and good benefits.”