A day to make the case for a career in manufacturing

The Heavy Metal Tours will make a stop in Iron Mountain on Friday.

No, it’s not the bands Metallica or AC/DC venturing into the North Woods. Instead, it’s a day at Bay College West that aims to show area students what kind of opportunities might be available locally in skilled trades and technical fields.

This Manufacturing Day event lets education, community and industry partners in the region make their pitch to the next generation of workers, at a time when finding employees to replace those retiring increasingly is becoming a struggle.

It’s one of nearly 200 such Manufacturing Day events planned in Michigan, sponsored by the Manufacturing Institute, the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

About 300 freshmen from Kingsford, Iron Mountain, Norway-Vulcan, North Dickinson County and Florence, Wis., high schools are expected to participate in hands-on activities Friday organized by Lakeshore Systems, BOSS Snowplow, Systems Control, Loadmaster, CCI Systems, Verso and American Axle and Manufacturing.

More than 20% of Dickinson County’s jobs are in manufacturing and industry. So it behooves area employers to convince more of the region’s young people to stick around rather than seek careers elsewhere.

“Our employers are not only faced with the challenge of baby boomer retirements, but it is estimated we will be adding over 1,300 new and replacement jobs in the area within the next three to five years. We have to be proactive,” said Lois Ellis, executive director of the Dickinson County Economic Development Alliance.

The Alliance, Bay College West, Northern Initiatives, the Dickinson-Iron Intermediate School District and Michigan Works! all are contributing to this event.

“We need to inform our students and their families that technical and skilled trades careers offer excellent wages. There’s huge opportunity to grow and you don’t need to put yourself into years of debt,” said Gina Wollner, dean of Bay College West.

Manufacturing Day is just one of many events within a larger effort to educate the community on local workforce shortages.

Heavy Metal Tours hosts industry open doors, school tours and a manufacturing camp as well. For more information, go to heavymetaltours.com.

“Our industry faces a workforce crisis, with manufacturers needing to fill 4.6 million jobs over the next decade,” said Carolyn Lee, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute. “That’s why The Manufacturing Institute, with sponsors like Workforce Development, works tirelessly to engage creative, hard-working talent through initiatives like MFG Day.”