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How companies strive to make manufacturing ‘sexy’ again
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Tom Oliver works at his milling station Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, as a tour group makes its way through the Lanier Technical College Kubota Manufacturing Building. Earlier a panel highlighted the resources being used to develop workforce skills in the area for large and small businesses. - photo by Scott Rogers

Georgia Manufacturing Alliance strives to change people’s perceptions of machinery and factory jobs.

“Just GMA and how it’s grown — people are understanding manufacturing,” Mike McGraw, the organization’s northeast chapter director said. “We used to say during the meetings that we need to make manufacturing sexy again. It’s happening. It’s real.”

McGraw and other members of the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance led the Workforce Development Showcase on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Lanier Technical College in Gainesville.

A panel of manufacturing experts provided their insight on how companies can better embrace work-based learning and foster opportunities for future employees.

The organization revealed one of its most recent ventures, which includes reaching out to students as early as middle school and showing them the potential of pursuing a manufacturing career.  

Once these students reach high school, they dive into work-based learning.

Shelley Davis, vice president of existing industry at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said this program gives them the skills to get a job in manufacturing.

As of last year, Davis said the organization helped 17 Georgia manufacturers employ 40 high school students.

Marjorie Dykes, the alliance’s marketing director, said her team travels across the state to expose manufacturers, educators and students to the interesting side of the industry. Last year the organization hosted more than 50 plant tours to show people the new technology at various factories.

“The younger millennial generation, they’re getting a four-year degree, they’re not seeing manufacturing as exciting,” Dykes said. “They think of Lucy and Ethel in the production line. There’s a lot of robotics, a lot of technology.”

After the showcase’s panel discussion on Wednesday, manufacturers from across Northeast Georgia received a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Kubota Advanced Manufacturing Building at Lanier Tech’s new campus off Ga. 365.

As a statewide membership organization that solely supports the manufacturing community, Dykes said her team wanted to expose the qualified talent the college has to offer.

Since opening its doors to students in January, the Kubota building features eight labs where students can study things like industrial systems, automotive collision repair, welding and marine technology.

One of the college’s newest programs — motor sports vehicle technology — exposes students to a variety of cars.

Christian Tetzlaff, dean of Lanier Tech’s applied technology division, said the students have mandatory internships, so they leave the motor sports program with practical experience.

“We can do so much here, and we even get these cars out to the racetracks sometimes, but there’s nothing that can replace the student going into the workforce and seeing what they’re learning in the real world,” he said.

Jason Moss, CEO of Georgia Manufacturing Alliance, challenged those attending the showcase to find ways to engage in the community and open people’s eyes to the amazing opportunities in the manufacturing field and at Lanier Tech.

Tim McDonald, the college’s vice president of economic development, expanded on the statement, giving a piece of advice to parents.

“You can send your child to a technical college,” McDonald said. “It’s essentially free. They’ll graduate with no debt in two years and 100 percent job placement rate in a career that will pay them enough to move out of your basement.”