Discovering Clean & High-Tech Manufacturing Careers: Student Insights



Pathways High School students visited three local companies in Kenowa Hills during Discover Manufacturing Week to explore different career opportunities and understand the necessary education and skills required for different jobs. The students visited Specialty Tooling Systems, an engineering and automotive manufacturing company, where the plant manager explained internship opportunities and apprenticeship possibilities after graduation. Pathways’ partnership with Kent ISD’s workforce development program made these opportunities available to its students, shedding light on local industries, and initiating career exploration opportunities.

Pathways High School Students Explore Local Career Opportunities

Students at Pathways High School in Kenowa Hills are taking a closer look at career paths close to home. During Discover Manufacturing Week, students, guided by Principal Jared Herron, toured three local businesses to gain insights into the variety of skills and education requirements in different jobs.

Herron stated that the goal was to expose students to various company cultures and work environments. The school also sought to break down transportation issues that could prevent students from exploring local career opportunities.

The students’ first visit was to Specialty Tooling Systems, a manufacturing plant in Walker, where they learned about internship and apprenticeship opportunities from Plant Manager Brian Heitzman.

Christian Meyers-Wilson, a junior, was inspired by Heitzman’s reference to former Pathways students who now work at Specialty Tooling Systems while also attending the workforce training program at Grand Rapids Community College.

“The prospect of working without needing a college degree is appealing,” Christian stated. He found it motivating that two Pathways alumni are already employed at Specialty Tooling Systems.

Generating Awareness and Connections

Herron mentioned that the partnership with Kent ISD’s workforce development program facilitated these visits. Ryan Graham, Director of Workforce Development at Kent ISD, serves on the board for Discover Manufacturing and expressed the importance of such initiatives to dispel outdated stereotypes about manufacturing jobs.

Graham also talked about Business ConnectED, an initiative by Kent ISD’s Workforce Development Team that aims to foster connections between local industries and students. This, along with the Career Chats initiative, is designed to raise awareness about various industries and create career exploration opportunities.

Herron and his team earned praise from Graham for their efforts in participating in these events and informing students about the rewarding career paths in manufacturing. “Pathways aids students in planning their future by encouraging them to explore,” Graham said.

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