Sealy students attend manufacturing conference

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Sealy ISD Career and Technical Education Department Head Brittany Hall, and CTE teacher Melissa Simms accompanied several Sealy High School CTE students Oct. 6 to the Gulf Coast Advanced Manufacturing Conference at the Stafford Centre and Houston Community College-Stafford campus.

The first half of the day students benefited from hearing panel discussions on topics including the economic outlook, automation, additive manufacturing and 3D printing and workforce education.

During the economic outlook panel, economists delivered an optimistic outlook despite Hurricane Harvey’s attempt to send Houston into recession noting little impact to big business. Economists explained Houston to be a top three U.S. city in manufacturing output with 1,737 plants producing metal products and declared the Port of Houston to be the highest irreplaceable port in the U.S.

Their only concern in their forecast was for the future workforce - will it be there? The workforce education panel research indicated 9.3 million job openings in the next 10 years due to retirement and industry growth. The group learned about the impact of technological advancement. From driverless cars to 3D printed lipstick, technology is taking over. Russia, for example, has a 3D printer that can build a fully operational home in a day! In our country, further displacement of jobs due to technological advancement is on the rise as are high health insurance and benefits costs, 30 percent of the population doesn’t graduate high school and the cost of a four-year college is outrageous. Community College programs offer a great opportunity for students to learn in-demand skills worthy of decent wages.

The automation panel expressed a need for workers with a positive attitude who know how to use a computer, read and write machine code, and pneumatic operations. It was emphasized that the most marketable employees are those who are diverse in their abilities - someone who can run the machine and be able to fix it, and read blueprints and drawings.

The additive manufacturing panel stated that there is an open market within their industry for anyone who has any experience at all.

In reference to ensuring the workforce will be available, the workforce education panel suggested employers aggressively align training to help schools by expressing the demand for high-quality certifications, support apprenticeships and internships, and donate equipment to schools.

During lunch, attendees heard from keynote speaker Richard A “Tony” Bennett from Texas Association of Manufacturers President and CEO and sponsorship presentations.

Following lunch, students had the opportunity to tour the new HCC Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence for tours, technology demonstrations and door prizes, that included a 3D printer. The Sealy group didn’t win the printer but the students came away with a new perspective on the manufacturing industry and immense opportunities available within the industry.

“While everyone was with the big group, I joined Mr. Shuan for the most memorable experience,” said SHS junior Andrea Grimaldo. “As he was going into detail and explaining everything to detail, I hoped I could get into a job like that one day.”

Senior Erika Almanza explained the most valuable thing she learned was “how manufacturing works in general, how 3D printers are going to revolutionize the world and soon people can become their own engineer.”

Junior Devon Barnfield said he learned about “several different career opportunities that would be a chance to build on.” The most memorable thing he learned was that “the future and process of 3D printing is limitless.”

Senior Uriel Gutierrez explained the most notable takeaway for him was “how every spokesperson had a purpose, they contributed to what they did and they were so dedicated.”

Senior Kody Snead summarized the conference experience when he said he learned “the industry is very lucrative. [Manufacturing] is a very interesting field to get into and is in need of more experienced workers.”

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