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Exposure to Manufacturing

Exposure to Manufacturing
April 18, 2024 Billy George

It is human nature to gravitate towards the familiar. That holds true for high school students. They will frequently choose careers or educational pathways aligned to future careers based on their exposure to that career. So how do we expose more students to the varied manufacturing careers available locally? That was the most prominent conversation thread at our recent Manufacturing Roundtable.

Last Thursday, representatives of 11 area manufacturers, Freeport High School, CareerTEC, and Highland Community College met to discuss workforce issues. Freeport High School and CareerTEC shared the existing educational pathways that are natural feeders into the manufacturing industry. Highland Community College shared the multiple existing certificate programs that train those not interested in attaining a four-year college degree. Also, shared were the opportunities for employers to engage with students to build relationships and familiarity with their company, products, and employment opportunities. Next school year, Freeport High School aims to have all juniors job shadow an employer that aligns to their career pathway. Additionally, they’d like all seniors to have an internship. If you are interested in partnering with the high school for these opportunities, please contact Thedford Jackson, College and Career Coach, 815-801-0588,

Mark your calendars. On Thursday, October 17th, 2024, CareerTEC and Highland Community College will co-host Manufacturing Day. This annual event allows students from area high schools the opportunity to tour local manufacturing facilities and visit employers at an employer expo. If you are interested in participating in this event, please contact Brian Greene, CareerTEC Systems Director, 815-232-0709,

It is likely that most current high school students have no idea the products created, the variety of career opportunities available, or the sustainable living wages offered within the buildings they drive by every single day. It is the responsibility of all of us to tell these stories, make the unfamiliar – familiar, and be proud of our robust manufacturing industry. I look forward to a growing partnership between our educational sector and local manufacturers so we can build an ever-increasing pipeline of talented workers.

Andrea Schultz Winter is the Executive Director for the Greater Freeport Partnership. She can be reached at or 815-233-1354.