Students gain inside look into manufacturing industry

KALIDA — Putnam County students got an inside look into a machine shop on Thursday as part of an on-site visit meant to familiarize them with the manufacturing industry, and to show them that jobs for skilled workers are readily available in their community.

Around 400 students from all but two Putnam County schools took a tour of BK Tool and Design, a Kalida-based company that creates machines for companies like Honda and Subaru.

In recent years, the industry has transitioned to an automation process, meaning machines are doing the work that people used to do, but in a more efficient and timely manner. However, skilled workers are still needed to program these machines to perform desired tasks.

“Companies are automating like crazy because, as a society, we realized we had to work smarter, not harder,” said Kevin Kahle, general manager of BK Tool and Design. “If young people show focus in the skills needed to operate these machines, there seems to be an unlimited opportunity for jobs.”

Kahle said that while the jobs are out there, they are largely going unfilled. He said part of this is because young people have an outdated perception of what it means to working in manufacturing.

“It seems like students think of manufacturing as this dirty, greasy, slinging a sledgehammer-type job,” he said, “but the reality is that it’s all very technical and requires a high skill set.”

Debunking this perception of manufacturing is one of the reasons Kahle helped organize Thursday’s visit, he said.

“We’re just trying to make them familiar with what the manufacturing industry actually is in today’s world,” Kahle said. “We understand that some kids are going to be doctors or whatever, but we can at least give them an idea of what it’s like in the manufacturing world.

“In five to 10 years, these kids will get out into the workforce, and we hope they explore a manufacturing-based career.”

Kahle said his company is always looking for engineers to join their team, as well as machinists and production line workers. And he’s especially interested in hiring local.

“We don’t want to see kids go off to school, move away and wind up with a job that’s not in their field or one they might not be happy with,” he said. “That’s why we’re presenting them with what’s available right here in our tri-county area.”

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Kevin Kahle, general manager of BK Tool and Design, gives eighth-graders from Jennings schools a tour of the facility Thursday. Kahle, general manager of BK Tool and Design, gives eighth-graders from Jennings schools a tour of the facility Thursday. John Bush | The Lima News

By John Bush

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Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima