Students learn about job opportunities

Students engage with Shelly Strickland, Malibu Boats human resources director.

Loudon and Lenoir City high school students gathered Thursday at The Venue at Lenoir City to gain a more personal understanding of local industries for National Manufacturing Week.

The third annual Manufacturing Industry Showcase, hosted by Loudon County Economic Development Agency, has allowed students to grasp what opportunities lie ahead after high school or college and helps industries gauge the potential job pool.

“We received an invite, and we voluntarily accepted it,” Lesa Williams, Del Conca USA human resources assistant, said. “Sometimes in the past at our facility, we’ve actually done tours. Each school brings a certain number of kids and we actually do a tour of our facility. This year, we decided to do The Venue so they can get a more hands-on of all the industries instead of talking from one industry to another.

“They need to see what’s out there. There’s some kids that never even knew we existed,” she added. “I did one at the high school, Lenoir City High School, a couple of years ago, and there were even parents that didn’t know we existed in the Sugarlimb Industrial Park. We get our name out there, but then we get to talk to the kids and learn what their interest is and then try to associate them with the company and convey to them why it’s so important to stay in school and get that education.”

Kelly Espinoza, Monterey Mushrooms human resources assistant, said the showcase allows students to see the prospects for alternative paths, like jumping straight into the workforce after high school.

“It actually shows students that there is a place for them if they’re not going to go to college,” Espinoza said. “We absolutely encourage them to go to college. It gives them a chance to see different kinds of things that they may be capable of doing or that they’re interested in doing.”

Buckeye Corrugated Inc.-Tennessee Division, Del Conca USA, Malibu Boats, Monterey Mushrooms, Morgan Olson, Tate & Lyle, Vanhooseco, Viskase and Wyko Tire Technology were represented at the event.

“Basically, it shows the opportunities that these guys can have in Loudon County,” Emilio Carrozzo, Del Conca USA body prep supervisor, said.

“If they don’t get out and go around and get to know the companies, then they won’t even know,” Williams added. “I think it’s very important. I love that they do this. They didn’t have this when I was in school.”

Students highlighted a newfound understanding of local industries.

“I actually wanted to come because after I graduate, I want to go into the Army, so after I get out of the Army, I want to try to find a job that will fit what I want to do,” Cheyenne Mashburn, LHS junior, said. “It’s definitely broadened my perspective of what’s in Loudon County.”

“It’s very useful,” Chloe Rogers, LHS junior, added. “I’ve never realized how many factories and companies were around my area.”

The showcase allowed students to get personal with company representatives.

“It is important to educate students and the community on the great job opportunities provided within manufacturing facilities located in Loudon County,” Blair Patterson, EDA administrative liaison, said in an email correspondence. “Creating awareness on company operations and production occurring in our community is also a key benefit of an event like this. This event has a great impact on Loudon County’s efforts to create a strong workforce pipeline connecting our local schools to our local industries.”

EDA is preparing to offer students industry tours with participating companies at the end of October and beginning of November, Patterson said.