Hooking up high school grads with manufacturing jobs

Pete Prichard and Mary DeWitt describe new Project Readiness program to the Wood County Commissioners.


BG Independent News

Graduates need jobs. Manufacturers need workers. And a new Project Readiness program would like to be the matchmaker to put them together.

On Friday, area manufacturers, educators and workforce agencies gathered to study how high school juniors and seniors could be encouraged to give careers in manufacturing a chance.

Earlier in the week, Mary DeWitt from the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services and Pete Prichard from Northwest State Community College met with the Wood County Commissioners to describe the new Project Readiness program.

“There are a number of kids who don’t know what they want to do,” Prichard said. And many end up going to college because it seems like the thing to do.

So Project Readiness wants to present them with another option.

“We want to provide this opportunity to 11th and 12th graders,” Prichard said. “It’s an innovative project.”

Students who start out with manufacturers don’t have to give up on college dreams, Prichard said. Some may want to attend college while working.

Some local manufacturers are so desperate for employees that they are willing to work around school schedules or offer students hours during their school breaks, he said.

Manufacturing is no longer back-breaking work in dirty plants. Often, it now offers high-tech, well-paying jobs.

“Manufacturing is different than it was 20-30 years ago,” Prichard said.

So far, Bowling Green City Schools, Otsego and Penta Career Center have bought into the concept, DeWitt told the county commissioners.

“We’re all trying to accomplish the same things” – help young people find jobs and help manufacturers find employees, DeWitt said.

“Wade keeps bringing in these businesses,” she said of Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. And those new businesses need workers.

Plus giving graduates jobs here, helps ensure that they will consider this region as a place to put down roots as they get older.

“We want to keep them here in Wood County,” DeWitt said.

“We don’t want them to leave the area,” Prichard said.

The effort to link high school juniors and seniors appealed to the county commissioners.

“We appreciate you being so visionary and moving forward with this,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “It certainly is worth a try.”

When the county commissioners make visits to industrial sites in the county, they frequently hear about the dire need for more employees.

“There certainly is a need,” Herringshaw said. “That’s what we hear when we make our visits. There aren’t enough people.”

Efforts are being made to get more school districts involved, plus to connect with more manufacturers in the county, DeWitt said.

The program will acquaint students with manufacturing and skilled trade opportunities by providing plant tours and speakers. The program will allow students and their parents to see today’s manufacturing environments and understand the diverse options available.

“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Prichard said.