By Jacob Mathias
Wisconsin Rapids Area sophomores visited manufacturing sites and learned about industrial career opportunities during the 3rd annual Heavy Metal Bus Tour on May 20.
“We felt the need to shine the light on the manufacturing jobs that are available here in this community,” said Melissa Reichert, chamber president. “This is an idea that originated in Wausau…the idea to shine the light on metal manufacturing up in the Wausau community. We modeled our program after it.”
The tour, hosted by the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, exposes students to the various local career opportunities in the fields of engineering and manufacturing. Sophomores from Wisconsin Rapids and Nekoosa High Schools spent the day visiting local manufacturers including ERCO Worldwide, a chemical producer, and Jacoby Custom Cues, a pool cue manufacturer. Students also toured Mid-State Technical College to learn about the various educational programs available in the field.
“We are a very technically based company. Our manufacturing process requires good technical knowledge. When we search for new employees we’re really searching for high level mathematical, science, logic-based skills,” said Dawn Jenson, ERCO Worldwide technical manager. “We think this Heavy Metal Bus Tour is a really great way to start introducing students to the great kinds of jobs that exist right here in our community.”
Jenson said that ERCO sometimes struggles finding candidates for their professional staff, particularly in engineering. She noted that qualified candidates aren’t interested in moving to a small community.
“What we find is that it’s so important for students to start shaping their high school career and what kinds of class they’re focused on in high school to prepare them for the college programs that they’re headed towards,” said Jenson. “If they’re really thinking about science, technology, engineering or math related college programs, they should be looking at those things in high school.”
The chamber will hold a similar tour of IT related careers in the fall.