Municipal economic development staff are holding one huge mixer this week in an effort to perhaps see a few relationships develop between local industries and the youth of today.
Geoff Wright, with the economic development department, said Chatham-Kent is taking part in Manufacturing Day – a North American celebration that typically takes place the first Friday in October. The relationship building will be between local manufacturers and high school students – kids with a specific interest in the manufacturing sector.
“We’ve got eight high schools across Chatham-Kent visiting eight manufacturers Oct. 2,” Wright said. “As you can imagine, it’s quite a logistics challenge.”
Each manufacturing firm will have students from two schools pop by, while each school will send kids to two different facilities.
“It’s like a basketball tournament where everybody’s guaranteed two games,” Wright said.
It’s not like the entire student body will be attending, however.
“We’re inviting anyone who has a potential interest in skilled trades and manufacturing,” he said. “We’re looking for all aptitudes within the manufacturing fields.”
That could also include people with an interest in engineering and human resources, not just potential machinists, millwrights and industrial electricians.
Wright said much has changed on the factory floor over the years.
“It’s not your father’s manufacturing company anymore. It’s changed. A lot of guys running the machines are wearing lab coats and are not knee-deep in grease,” he said. “They’re running robots doing some pretty incredible stuff.”
Wright said economic development staff meet with a handful of different local manufacturers every week, and the topic is usually the same: there’s a skilled trades gap.
Friday’s event might serve to help send more local students down a path to help fill such a gap.