Students Experience Manufacturing at MFG Day Kickoff

To say there was a lot for students to see and do at chemical manufacturer BASF’s MFG Day event at River Parishes Community College last Friday would be an understatement.

  • The activities at the Gonzales, Louisiana, college were made possible by a partnership between with the school and the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.

A rewarding experience: Hundreds of middle and high school students gathered on the campus for a chance to learn about manufacturing and how rewarding careers in the industry can be.

  • Representatives from approximately 10 manufacturing companies and various departments at the college set up demonstration and interactivity stations where the students could find out more about the different careers and training programs available in their community.
  • BASF was platinum sponsor of this year’s MFG Day, a flagship initiative of the Manufacturing Institute that introduces students, parents and educators to the manufacturing industry.

Hands-on activities: Students got the chance to conduct science experiments (including one in which they made putty and learned how different chemicals react to create the substance), simulate firefighting, experience virtual and augmented reality welding systems, try out process control simulators and more.

Readying the future workforce: Partnerships between academia and industry are helping to deliver the right workers to the right jobs, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson told the students and other audience members at the event.

  • The LED’s “FastStart workforce development [program], that integrates with community colleges and four-year universities across our state, help[s] guide and then make the recipe to deliver exactly what BASF needs, exactly what Shell needs, exactly what ExxonMobil needs” in its workforces, Pierson said.
  • Said A. Denise Graves, Ascension Public Schools assistant superintendent, “[Today] is an opportunity for our children because they’re going to go home and they’re going to share this information [about manufacturing careers], they’re going to share this day with others.”

A guiding path: Louisiana State Rep. Ken Brass, who is also an electrical engineer at BASF, described his journey into manufacturing.

  • “I would like to publicly and personally thank BASF and the Manufacturing Institute for investing in me and my career,” he said. “It wasn’t too long ago [that] I was a senior at a nearby high school … and I was wondering [about] the path forward for my life after high school.”
  • “I attended a STEM event which led me to attend Southern University and ultimately receive a bachelor’s degree in engineering with a minor in mathematics,” he continued. “Upon graduation, BASF took a chance on me. I have now been at the company for over 20 years, which has allowed me the opportunity to continue to live in my hometown of St. James and to work in a nearby parish.”

Changing perceptions: Activities such as those at BASF’s MFG Day event allow students to get a real taste of modern manufacturing and perhaps take career paths similar to Brass’s, MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee said.

  • “MFG Day … is designed to give manufacturers a platform to come together to address one of the biggest challenges we all face each and every day—and that’s to change the perception of our careers,” Lee said.
  • “We’re showing students what manufacturing really looks like today and how operators get to work … in clean, bright, sleek technology-driven facilities while accessing state-of-the-art equipment and tools, including robotics and augmented reality, drones and digital twins, just to name a few.”

A bright future: “We know that by building an interest in STEM careers today, we’ll create the sustainable solutions [we need] for tomorrow,” said BASF Senior Vice President and General Manager Jerry Lebold. “It’s through these kids and … efforts like this with RPCC that I know that future is going to be more sustainable and it’s going to be very bright.”

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