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Manufacturing Expo Teaches Central Illinois Students About Opportunities

The Discover Manufacturing Career Expo took place at the Peoria Civic Center Wednesday. More than 1,000 students from area high schools attended.
PEORIA – There are more than 200 manufacturing employers in central Illinois and those companies are constantly looking for skilled workers to join the team. On Wednesday, several companies reached out to students from around the area through the 5th annual Discover Manufacturing Career Expo at the Peoria Civic Center.

Farmington High School Senior Kyle Harmon said, “Most of the time, I think 'oh it's just manufacturing, it's just making stuff.' I didn't know all the options you can do.

He said before the expo, that was his mentality. Since learning more on Wednesday he’s changing his outlook and maybe even his future plans. “It's teaching me the basics of manufacturing and what fields I should go into in the future.”

That’s the kind of information Michael Sloan, the Dean of Agriculture and Industrial Technology at ICC, said employers like Caterpillar, Excel Foundry and Machine and Matcor want to get across. “There's nobody standing doing the same thing over and over again, people were moving around, communicating and working with automation. They’re trying to solve problems, trying to make things better. So  a really different image of manufacturing than what they thought of.”

Sloan said there are a variety of opportunities and a chance to make a decent, steady living. “The earnings for people with manufacturing jobs are above average.”

Students don’t just get to talk to company leaders about prospective jobs, but they actually get a hands-on approach to the kind of work they’d be doing.

Farmington High School Senior Austin Neff said, “Having a career like this would be fun. I mean there is always room to improve and grow in this type of field so I can see it.”

This expo is showing thousands of students what’s available to them, and helping them get a head start on their training. Sloan said having more skilled individuals is what will really help our region’s manufacturing sector thrive. “Last year, we were screaming for individuals. So even though today we're fine, we know we're only a couple months away from our next shortage.”

This expo has grown from less than 100 students to 1,300 in just five years.

Before the expo at the Civic Center, students went into some of the companies in the area to get a feel for the workplace.
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