Quincy News

MakerFest targets strengthening local workforce

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 31, 2018 7:40 am

QUINCY -- The name itself is catchy, but it's the long-term effect that organizers hope will be most remembered.

The three-day Tri-State MakerFest runs Thursday through Saturday inside the Oakley-Lindsay Center, providing a platform for regional businesses to not only showcase themselves but attract job seekers.

"The focus is on workforce development," said Joi Cuartero Austin, a marketing and communications specialist for the Great River Economic Development Foundation (GREDF).

GREDF President Marcel Wagner feels MakerFest can be a springboard to a long-term approach of assisting local economic growth.

"The most critical issue facing our community is finding enough skilled workforce to fill open positions in our growing industries," Wagner said.

Makerfest is a production of GREDF, John Wood Community College, Workforce Innovation Board of Western Illinois, West Central Region Education for Employment System No. 240/Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center.

Major sponsors of Makerfest include HomeBank, WGEM, The Herald-Whig and Ameren.

Businesses are encouraged to attend a 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday networking event and preview in the OLC hall. Those attending will be the first to hear about the new Talent Attraction and Retention Project that will soon launch, coordinated by GREDF and The Herald-Whig.

"Quincy and our region are fortunate to be in a growth mode," said Ron Wallace, publisher of The Herald-Whig. "However, we recognize there is a gap in our workforce. Therefore, we need to get the message out to other areas about our growth, as well as low cost of living and quality of life, encouraging people to seek Quincy for their place of employment.

"This new Talent Attraction and Retention Project will allow us to tell our story, target regional job seekers and offer a solution for people in places suffering higher unemployment rates."

Those attending the Thursday afternoon event also will be the first to see completed projects from the S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) bridge-building competition. Guests will vote on bridge aesthetics

Engineers from local companies recently paired with participating high schools to assist with the goal of not only building the strongest bridge out of balsa wood, but also inspiring careers in S.T.E.A.M.

Students from Unity, Quincy Christian, Pittsfield and Paris (Mo.) high schools took part, with assistance from engineers Deepak Balaji of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Roger Leenerts of Leenerts Group, Brian Norman of Klingner and Associates and Charles Paquet of Knapheide Manufacturing.

"I was so impressed with the enthusiasm of the teachers ... and the interest that the students had in this event," Leenerts said. "Not only were the students interested in doing well in the competition, they were fully engaged in the learning process about engineering principles of good bridge design."

"I believe this event is very important for connecting students and the community to all the available S.T.E.A.M.-related businesses the area has to offer," Balaji said. "This exposure to the local industry is key in driving the economy and future of the area. I think this will teach students that careers in S.T.E.A.M. are beyond just math and sciences, but more importantly, teamwork and collaboration."

Saturday's 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. session is open to the public, providing an opportunity to see employer exhibits and present applications and resumes. Also scheduled are tech demonstrations, video presentations and interactive displays.

The second part of the S.T.E.A.M. bridge-building competition will also be a part of Saturday's schedule. Among the activities will be a testing of the structural qualities of the bridges, plus events designed for students in the sixth grade and younger.

Participating businesses and organizations in MakerFest will be Adams Fiber, ADM, Blessing Health System, Craig Industries, Dot Foods, First Bankers Trust, First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust, GatesAir, The Herald-Whig, Hollister-Whitney Elevator, HomeBank, John Wood Community College, Knapheide Manufacturing, Kohl Wholesale, Lakeside Casting Solutions, Manchester Tank, Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center, Quincy Medical Group, Quincy University, Sisbro Inc., Sparks Maintenance, Titan International Inc. and Workforce Innovation Board.

MAKERFEST SCHEDULE

At Oakley-Lindsay Center

º Thursday, 4 to 6 p.m.: Business to business networking, plans for Talent Attraction and Retention Project revealed, first part of S.T.E.A.M. bridge-building competition where guests vote on aesthetics.

º Friday, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Students from high schools across the region visit with businesses and learn about future opportunities.

º Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon: Open to the public to see employer exhibits, applications and resumes accepted, tech demonstrations, equipment and video presentations and interactive displays.

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