HCPED Launches Collaborative Effort to Connect Students with Manufacturing Careers

July 18, 2013

On Monday, June 10, 2013, leaders of Henderson County industry and the Henderson County Public Schools participated in the first of a series of luncheons designed to enhance the connection between industrial employers and the school system.

The kickoff event was held at Clement Pappas, located in the Mountain Home Industrial Park.  25 middle and high school guidance counselors from across the county learned more about manufacturing and the current and emerging career opportunities in the sector.  Program time was spent with Plant Manager, Pete Szelwach, who currently oversees the 160 person operation.  According to Szelwach, “local industries are adding employment but when trying to recruit young workers, manufacturing is not keeping pace with other sectors, which could be attributed to the sector’s outdated reputation and lack of clear marketing to young workers.”

Following lunch, Szelwach and Kara Bailey, Clement Pappas’ Senior Human Resources Manager, led a tour through the facility, explaining the various processes and highlighting career opportunities within the plant.  Bailey noted that many of the jobs within the company require technical competencies and the ability to troubleshoot and quickly react to issues that arise during the bottling process.

“Preparation and planning for this effort has been underway since 2012,” said Pete Szelwach, who serves as the Chair of the Partnership’s Existing Industry Committee.  Work leading up to the collaborative relationship included in-depth workforce analysis, small group discussions, committee work sessions and employer specific surveys.  During each of these exercises the single most overwhelming take away was the need for simple, yet effective, programming to build relationships between industry and Henderson County’s top ranked public schools system.  “Dr. Helen Owen, Director of Career & Technology Education (CTE) and Counseling, and the Henderson County Public Schools have been outstanding to work with,” says Szelwach. “When asked to be involved they stepped up in a big way and have been extremely engaged in this approach.”

Working together to build this relationship, the Partnership hopes to achieve three specific goals:

1)      Emphasize available careers within the manufacturing sector

2)      Positively impact the number of students who pursue careers in the manufacturing sector

3)      Increase participation in CTE opportunities (job shadowing, internships & apprenticeships)

Moving forward, HCPED and the school system will begin scheduling additional luncheons and industry tours for CTE personnel and guidance counselors.  Work will also begin on plans to tour students in manufacturing environments around the county.  To obtain more information about these efforts, or to get involved directly, please contact Josh Hallingse at [email protected] or 828-692-6373.