Business

MakerFest opens students' eyes to employment possibilities in Quincy

Kurt Vaeth of FPE Automation, left, helps Josey Rarick and Monroe Fox use a robotic arm controlled by a tablet during the third annual Tri-State MakerFest on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. Area high school students visited with business officials and learned about future career and education opportunities. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 3, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Oct. 3, 2019 2:31 pm

QUINCY -- Josey Rarick, Monroe Fox and Ethan Rosenburg got a new take on employment opportunities Wednesday at the third annual Tri-State MakerFest at the Oakley-Lindsay Center.

The three Paris, Mo., High School seniors say the information they learned changed their minds.

Rarick said he is considering a job in robotics and programming, especially after visiting the Universal Robotics booth.

A lover of science and chemistry, Fox said he walked into the event thinking he was going into health care, but now he will take a second look at Archer Daniels Midland after visiting its booth illustrating how the company uses chemistry in the workplace.

Rosenburg said that while the programming at Universal Robotics was interesting, his interest was captured when he learned how ADM used railways to move agricultural products from one market to another.

While they live 58 miles from Quincy, the seniors say they will take a look at employment opportunities in the city once they complete their high school and postsecondary education.

Other Missouri students said they were impressed by Knapheide Manufacturing Co., where company officials told Michael Shade and Caden Stark about different employment opportunities.

Both teens said Wednesday's event showed them just how many employment opportunities there were in Quincy. They said they were more likely to check for jobs in Quincy after high school because of MakerFest.

Angela Caldwell, director of Workforce Development for Great River Economic Development Foundation, said that's good news.

"As you know, we have a number of opportunities for employment in manufacturing, logistics, skilled trades and quite a few more openings coming about as the baby boomers continue to retire in the coming years," Caldwell said. "Knowing that there are individuals who are just across the river and are now interested in working here in Quincy means that employers don't have to worry about relocation packages and all those kinds of things. These potential employees could just drive across the river and come to work here in Quincy. So that is really good, really good news for Quincy's employers."

Great River Economic Development Foundation was one of the organizers of MakerFest, which brought more than 400 high school students to the Oakley-Lindsay Center to meet with leaders in manufacturing, industry, skilled trades and similar occupations. Ameren Illinois and Homebank also were sponsors.

Employers represented at Wednesday's event were: ADM, Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Craig Industries, Dot Foods, FPE Automation, Gates Air, Hollister-Whitney Elevator Co., Homebank, Knapheide, Manchester Tank, Phibro, Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center, Quincy University, Sparks Maintenance H&B Quality Tooling, Titan International and Universal Robotics. There also were representatives from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Plumbers and Pipefitters union.

It was not just Missouri students who left Quincy with a better understanding of what employment opportunities await in the Gem City.

Gabriella Benson, a junior at Quincy Senior High School, described MakerFest as an "eye-opening experience."

"I've learned that there are so many different positions in one company," she said. "I'm not going into welding after high school. I am going into business. So it was interesting to me to see how there are lots of different business-related jobs in welding companies."

Caldwell said she was pleased to hear high school students making that connection.

"Once again, that is a huge win for Quincy," Caldwell said. "A lot of students only see the finished product. They only see the fried chicken that was cooked, but they don't see that the oil it was cooked in was produced by ADM. They only see the tractor as a whole and don't really even pay attention to the tires that are on there, not even realizing that those tires came from Titan. It is always our hope that events like today help students see there are a number of things that have to happen before the product is finished. Even in manufacturing, there is an accounting department, there is a marketing department, there is a sales department, there is a human resources department. All of those departments are important to how that company functions, and all of those departments need employees."

MakerFest traces back to a longstanding tradition in Quincy of observing Manufacturing Day, which has been celebrated each October for a number of years. Before MakerFest, students from area high schools would tour Quincy-area manufacturing companies. Caldwell said organizers of those tours wanted to find a way to give more businesses exposure to potential employees, including high school students.

Patrick McCaherty of Jacksonville was in Quincy representing the Operating Engineers union. He said he appreciated how students were able to meet with a variety of employers and organizations, including the skilled labor unions.

"Many times when there is one or two large companies in town, then kids sometimes limit themselves thinking that is the only job or job available to them," McCaherty said. "I hope that today opens their eyes to the possibilities of all of the jobs that are out there."

Shayna Harrison, a student at Pittsfield High School, said more students should attend MakerFest next year.

"It really gives you a head start on what you are going to do after high school by giving you a chance to meet with employers," Harrison said.

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