A glimpse into the world of manufacturing

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Students tour local plants for Manufacturing Week

While southeast Minnesota celebrates Manufacturing Week, some Albert Lea students were able to learn more firsthand about manufacturing careers in their own backyard.

For the second year, Albert Lea students participated in a regional field trip day Tuesday that opened manufacturers’ doors to high school and college students. Over the course of three days, over 500 high school and college students from 15 schools in southeast Minnesota will visit 27 manufacturers, according to a press release from Rochester Area Economic Development Inc.

Approximately 35 Albert Lea students from the high school, 18-21 Transition program and Area Learning Center toured three facilities among them, including ALAMCO Wood Products, Zumbro River Brand and Owatonna’s Wenger Corporation. The visit was open to any interested students, said Albert Lea Area Schools Administrator on Special Assignment John Double, who coordinated Albert Lea’s involvement.

An ALAMCO Wood Products employee shows Albert Lea students samples of some of the wood products they work with in the Albert Lea facility. Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune

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According to Double, the day is an opportunity for students to see what manufacturing is becoming. It also gives manufacturers, an industry with a need for workers, a chance to show students what a job in manufacturing could be like, he said.

Junior Tiffany Mehus said she thought the day was a great opportunity for students to see how manufacturing is done and to be inspired by it. She said she likes working with her hands, using tools and seeing how things are made.

“I like seeing things hands-on, and I don’t just like looking at one option,” she said during her visit to ALAMCO Wood Products. “I like more — looking at everything.”

Zumbro River Brand human resources generalist Christina Conley said she does not think people realize all of the different jobs available at the company. There are scientists and workers with advanced degrees.

“We’re doing more than just making food products,” Conley said.

Opening their doors is part of an effort to let people in the community know Zumbro River Brand is here, she said.

Southeast Services Cooperative Program Manager and student tour co-lead Sarah Ness said  they know high school students prefer to stay in or near their hometowns for future jobs they are interested in.

“Experiential learning, like these group tours, is a top influencer to high school students to show them the opportunity and career potential locally,” she said.

Students from Medford also came down to Albert Lea to tour Lou-Rich Inc. and Zumbro River Brand. In addition to Albert Lea, students across southeast Minnesota also toured or will tour facilities in Austin, Blooming Prairie, Chatfield, Dodge Center, Fountain, La Crescent, Lake City, Pine Island, Red Wing, Rochester, Stewartville and Winona.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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