SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Some 1,000 high school students descended on Ozarks Technical Community College on Friday for the inaugural I-Create Manufacturing Career Day, a chance for them to learn about the wide-ranging world of advanced manufacturing. The day-long program started with a ribbon-cutting and proclamation by Springfield Mayor Mike McClure followed by students getting the opportunity to get involved in hands-on activities and demonstrations.
Several community partners made the event possible including Missouri Association of Manufacturers, Ozarks Technical Community College, Missouri State University, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, SMC Packaging and the city’s Department of Workforce Development housed at the Missouri Job Center.
The event took place at OTC’s new Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a $40 million, 120,000 square-foot facility whose purpose is to train the Ozarks’ workforce for jobs of the future.
“This is a game-changer,” said Robert Randolph, the Executive Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Center. “The economic impact of the Plaster Manufacturing Center is over $430 million over the next ten years so it’s really going to improve the manufacturing outlook in our region.”
“We have to rebrand manufacturing and manufacturing careers,” added Michael Eaton, the Executive Director of the Missouri Association of Manufacturers based in Springfield. “So many of the jobs in manufacturing today are ones that don’t require a shower at the end of the day. And we hope these students can come to this event, connect some dots, and see a strong career path where they can get those skills and walk right into an incredible paying job. The goal moving forward after this first-year event is to have events like this taking place all over the state.”
Looking around you can tell that this is not your grandfather’s manufacturing industry.
Robotic devices and 3-D printing are the wave of the future and the students make stops in areas labeled “Information Technology Infrastructure”, “Cybersecurity” and “Mechatronics”.
“We’ve got a rapid prototyping lab, a visualization lab where we’re working with virtual reality and we’ve got the precision machinery lab,” Randolph pointed out.
Precision machinery is an ever-evolving area of manufacturing where raw materials are precisely-shaped into finished products.
“We use rotating cutting tools at 12,000 RPMs and we can make just about anything,” explained Robert Wise, an OTC Manufacturing Lab Manager. “They’re used to make all kinds of products and parts and the thing that many people don’t realize is that machining affects everything in our daily lives. Almost everything we touch and deal with is made in some way by this equipment.”
The prototyping lab has 23 3-D printers of all different types and from the medical field to construction, 3-D printers are popping up everywhere.
“They use 3-D printers to print-off heart valves and anything like that out of titanium,” said Ryan Friend, an OTC Drafting and Design Instructor. “As far as printing houses they’re using huge machines to lay down cement in layers when they build apartment complexes. This type of technology is really taking off. Before it was treated like some magic that happens but now you can buy these printers relatively cheap at $500 or less and make things yourself.”
“I was up in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago at a facility where they had North America’s largest 3-D printer,” Eaton added. “It could hold about five-or-six people inside it.”
As for the students the day offered a great opportunity to learn and have fun as well as find a possible future career opportunity.
“There’s a bunch of cool stuff here,” said Blue Eye High School senior Jadon Weaver. “Everybody’s nice here and they guide you in the right direction so it definitely takes the stress away.”
However his fellow schoolmate Cayden Murray, a junior, did admit that seeing all the robotic technology was a bit disconcerting.
“It’s kind of scary because it could take my job,” he said of the increase in automation.
“It’s gonna take over the world,” Weaver added with a laugh.
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