SCOTTSBLUFF — The Western Nebraska Community College Workforce Development department and the City of Scottsbluff hosted the second annual Western Nebraska Manufacturing Day Oct. 5 at the John N. Harms Center.
Area manufacturers and students from area high schools attended the half-day event, which focused on the future of manufacturing in Nebraska and the emerging jobs and careers high school and college students can expect to see. Sponsors of the event were Nebraska Public Power District, Black Hills Energy and the Scottsbluff/Gering United Chamber of Commerce.
Keynote speakers included K.C. Belitz of the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition (NAMC) and representative of the “Dream it. Do It.” initiative, and Matt Allmand, director of the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
Belitz, who is also the president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, and serves on the board of directors for the Nebraska Community Foundation, outlined the “Dream It. Do It.” initiative, which aims to enhance the image of manufacturing and identify the education paths to achieve skills needed in the industry. Belitz also spoke about the benefits of the NAMC partnership that supports both the “Dream it. Do It.” initiative and the STEM Match initiative.
Following Belitz, Allmand, former president of Allmand Brothers Manufacturing in Holdrege, Nebraska, shared the history of his own career in manufacturing, including how he started on the shop floor of the family business and worked his way up through production, purchasing, project management, lean manufacturing and company leadership. He stressed on-the-job learning in conjunction with trade school or college as the best pathway to success in manufacturing and encouraged lifelong learning throughout one’s career.
Local presenters, who are also potential future employers, included Cheryl Brandenburgh of Black Hills Energy, Terry Rajewich of NPPD, Kim Ferguson of Kelley Bean Company, Becky Stitt of Western Sugar, and Greg Moeller and Mike Friesz of Parker Hannifin in Alliance. Donna Kuskie of the Nebraska Department of Labor also presented options for training and support programs offered by the State of Nebraska.
The day culminated with local manufacturing tours, enabling students to get real world exposure to machinery, equipment and processes. Scott James, president of CS Precision Manufacturing in Gering and Gunther Koob of Scottsbluff Industries hosted site visits of their respective companies.
“Friday’s event supports our goal to develop a work-ready labor force that serves manufacturers in the Panhandle,” said Charlie Gregory, WNCC dean of instruction and workforce development. “Giving future workers insights into opportunities can help shape their career paths as they finish high school and move on to college. WNCC will continue to survey manufacturers in the Panhandle for direct input as we develop curriculum and programs that prepare students for these types of emerging positions.”
“We are encouraged by the number of students who attended from schools in western Nebraska” said Starr Lehl, economic director for the City of Scottsbluff. “The No. 1 issue I hear from manufacturers is the need for a skilled workforce, so bringing students and manufacturers together at events like this is a good first step in helping to fill the skills gap.”