Area high school kids were given a unique opportunity to learn about manufacturing careers in Yankton and highlight some of their skills this week.
On Wednesday, the Regional Technical Education Center (RTEC) held its first Manufacturing Career Day.
RTEC President Josh Svatos told the Press & Dakotan 68 area high school students participated in the event.
"It’s a day for high school students to explore careers in manufacturing right here in Yankton," Svatos said. "We have students here from Yankton, Bon Homme, Irene-Wakonda, Gayville-Volin, Avon, Stanton, Nebraska, Wynot, Nebraska, Crofton, Nebraska, Santee and Allen, Nebraska — so we had a wide variety of communities represented.
He said that a number of manufacturers took part in the day-long course.
"It was just a day for our manufacturers to showcase what goes on in the community," he said. "This morning, we had guest speakers from some of our RTEC skilled trades association partnerships, which include Kolberg-Pioneer, Applied Engineering, Hydro, TrailKing, Lewis & Clark Hydraulic and Vishay. We also had sort of a mock job fair this afternoon."
But one of the highlights of the day was a welding contest in which teams of students showed off projects they’d made — ranging from artwork to a bow fishing platform on a boat.
Among the entrants Wednesday were junior Erin Knight and freshman Camryn Zoeller — both of Yankton High School — who made a cross out of welded horseshoes.
Knight had a glowing review of the day’s events.
"I thought it was very interesting to see how many other companies around Yankton actually show off their products and come in to tell us what they do," Knight said.
Zoeller said it was a learning experience.
"I didn’t know how many opportunities there are for all of these careers," Zoeller said.
Zoeller and Knight took first place in the art category.
The overall champion was Zach Neu (Yankton) for a bow fishing platform.
Taking first in the functional category were Josh Stribal (Yankton), Luke Boyd (Bon Homme), Marlon Hussman (Bon Homme), Christoph Zielnica (Bon Homme) and Joe Sees (Irene Wakonda).
Svatos said the new event had its roots in a previous event that was moved to a later date.
"If you go back a year, this would’ve been our big hands-on career expo," he said. "But we moved that career expo to the fall during Yankton Manufacturing Week, so we wanted to do an event to complement this. I’ve been a part of a few career days in the region. I thought, ‘You know what? It’s time for us to try our own and see what the art of the possible is.’"
He said that communities such as Santee, Nebraska, Wagner and Pierce, Nebraska host similar career days.
Svatos said it’s important to educate area students on just how much Yankton contributes to their everyday lives, manufacturing-wise.
"It was very interesting today because you have a lot of students that came in from out of town that didn’t realize what Kolberg-Pioneer does," he said. "They see the television show ‘Gold Rush’ and they don’t realize, ‘Hey, KPI-JCI — that’s equipment made here in Yankton.’ Vishay, we asked the students, ‘Do you have iPhones or iPads? There’s a pretty good chance that you have components manufactured here in Yankton.’ The list goes on."
In addition to teaching students about what they may not realize about area manufacturers, Svatos said the career day was also intended to give students insight on what they may not realize about themselves.
"The biggest takeaway from today we really wanted to accomplish is for these students to learn something they didn’t already know," he said. "Maybe they like welding. Maybe they like machining. Maybe they found out something they don’t want to do and it pushed them into a different career path."
Svatos said the day was a productive one.
"We were very, very pleased with the turnout today," he said. "Kids asked some good questions. We had an all-star panel with manufacturing professionals who shared what they do on a daily basis, what their facilities do and what they produce. It was good for all involved."
He added that he sees the momentum carrying the event on into the future.
"I’m excited about what the future holds for an event like this," he said. "We may expand it. … There was a lot of fun had by the students. I think they learned a lot and I think the manufacturing professionals that were our guest speakers were satisfied as well."
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