PORTAGE | The jobs for tomorrow's high school graduates might just be a step outside their door.
But, said officials from the Portage Economic Development Corp., area manufacturers and schools need to work together to make students, and their parents, aware of the career potential. The two also need to work together to prepare students to meet the needs of local manufacturers.
PEDCO Executive Director James Fitzer told a group at Thursday's Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce the nonprofit economic development agency is taking steps to bring the two sides together.
Fitzer said the group has sponsored externships, sending, so far, four Portage High School teachers into two local manufacturers, NLMK and PSC Machining, to learn about the companies, their needs and expectations.
PEDCO is also sponsoring a National Manufacturing Day at the high school on Oct. 3. The event will allow local companies to set up booths. PHS freshman will be able tour the booths. The event will also be open to the public after school hours.
"Eighty percent of our high school graduates head off to college," said Fitzer, adding 50 percent of those young people come back, often confused about their futures.
"We have to provide high school students an option to the four-year college," he said.
PEDCO President Fred McNulty led a roundtable of three of the teachers and representatives of NLMK and PSC Machining.
"There is a myth that we don't have kids prepared for jobs and that they have to go to college," said McNulty, adding there are alternatives such as jobs in manufacturing that require apprenticeships or training and schools such as Ivy Tech instead of a four-year degree.
"We wanted to see how they could take the application of what we are doing on the shop floor into the classroom," said Bill Stockwell, of PSC Machining.
Teacher Amy Burke said the experience gives her some "validity" with students when telling them what they need to do to land jobs after high school.
The industry representatives said they often have a difficult time finding good hires for the jobs, many of which start at $20 per hour.