LIMA — As Delphos St. John’s senior Brandon Slate took in the sights at the Lima MetoKote plant, learning how the various metal coating processes worked, his focus was also on his future.
“It’s a pretty cool place, really, and I could definitely see myself working here someday,” he said.
That reaction is the goal of the Link Lima site visit program, taking groups from area high schools to various manufacturing and production centers in the region, giving them a glimpse of what Allen County could have to offer in terms of career paths.
“The site visit program was put in place as a result of MakerFest,” Link Lima program administrator Tracy Hollar said. “What the program was put in place for was to give kids in our local schools an opportunity to make them aware of the manufacturing in our community, knowing that our manufacturing companies like to keep people who are from Lima, rather than lose them to other communities. So the hope was that the students could go and see the environments and know what Allen County has to offer, so they can stay here.”
Because of the perception among youth that a four-year college degree is needed to ensure a quality, well-paying career down the road, the manufacturing sector can be at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting quality candidates, because many entry-level positions only require a high school diploma. However, Hollar is hoping to take that perceived negative and turn it into a positive, letting high school students know that there are opportunities for well-paying careers with avenues for further training and education available locally the minute they receive their diploma.
“If they knew they didn’t want to go to college or maybe go to college later, there are opportunities in manufacturing to start working, and once they’re in those environments and they decided to go to school, there are programs where they can get their tuition reimbursed,” she said. “If they chose not to go to school, they could still earn a good living and live in this community.”
Several high schools have participated in the program in recent weeks, with MetoKote also receiving a visit from Bath students, Spallinger-Millwright receiving students from Perry and Ohio Hi-Point, Dana Corp. hosting Allen East students, and Diamond Manufacturing of Bluffton hosting students from Columbus Grove.
“Most of the students who attended had never been inside a factory and were unaware of what MetoKote actually did,” Bath science teacher Shaun Blevins said. “Every student left saying it was a really good field trip.”
Delphos St. John’s senior Kyle Lisk agreed that touring MetoKote left him with a lot to consider when it comes to his post-high school plans.
“It blew my expectations, and I can definitely see working here someday,” he said. “It helps people who don’t know what they want to do yet. Experiences like this can help you make that decision.”
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.