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Employment on horizon for KAMA graduates

Employment on horizon for KAMA graduates

JVH KAMA Open House, 2019 1, Haywood

KAMA student John Haywood installs a back axle of a cart being built in an assembly simulation cell. (Photo by Joan Van Houten)


jvh KAMA Open House, 2019 2, Bower

P.J. Bower says manufacturing will definitely be a career path for him.


jvh KAMA Open House, 2019 3, Baum, Haywood

Larry Baum, CEO of Hastings Fiberglass, attends an open house where students of a manufacturing assembly program demonstrate what they've learned.


jvh KAMA Open House, 2019 Carts

Garden carts are part of a simulation program that high school seniors are using in a program exposing them to the manufacturing environment.

Employment on horizon for KAMA graduates

Joan Van Houten Staff Writer


Students demonstrated what they've learned in the Kellogg Advanced Manufacturing Assembly program at the KAMA open house on May 3.

“KAMA not only teaches assembly skills, but students are exposed other important skills like critical thinking, team support, and lean manufacturing,” Dave Kalen, assembly instructor, said.

KAMA is a full semester dual enrollment course that launched in Barry County in the last school semester of 2016-2017. The program began with a few students but has grown to 18 high school seniors who have received college credits through Kellogg Community College and earned an opportunity to interview with several area manufacturing companies.

An accelerated six-week summer course designed for graduates and young adults is also available with the program. The nine graduates enrolled in the course completed the curriculum and received job offers that launched their careers with major manufacturers in Barry County.

A job fair for businesses wanting to present information about their products and manufacturing process to KAMA graduate students will take place at 1p.m., June 3, in the community room at the Tyden Center, 121 S. Church St., Hastings.

Area business representatives interested in meeting potential employees with basic employment and soft skills training are invited to attend and can register by calling the Economic Development Alliance at 269-945-2454 or via email at

“I really like what I've learned, and now I'm positive I'm going into manufacturing. I know I will use everything I've learned in this program – even the small things that turn out to be pretty important things,” P.J. Bower, a current student, said. Bower's responsibility in the assembly simulation was installing the rear assembly of the metal yard carts being produced.

John Haywood, a senior student, said he wasn't sure manufacturing was a good fit for him, but, “It's still good to figure it out now” by gaining exposure to the manufacturing environment. He chose to complete the course because he said he's continuing to learn skills that are necessary to be successful.

Hastings Fiberglass President Dave Baum, and his father, Larry, who is the company CEO, were present at the KAMA open house. Hastings Fiberglass donated the space this year because of the extra space that was needed for the simulation cells.

The program changed its location from TNR Machine, Inc, a local CNC machine shop that has donated space in their CNC training building to help the program get off the ground.

A few students, such as Clayton Davies, said they aren't excited about classroom work, “but I liked the simulations and wrenching on stuff.”

The classroom work included skills related to writing resumes, preparing for job interviews, basic math and taking measurements, understanding phrases, words and acronyms common in manufacturing.

Davies' dad has been in construction for many years, and he often helped on job sites. He said he still isn't certain construction or manufacturing is where he'll fit in.

For Seth Ray, the course was a way for him to step out of his comfort zone and gave him a view of opportunities he had not considered. Although he said he leans toward working in auto body or as a car mechanic, he's learned to use and be comfortable with air tools, working as part of a cohesive group and collaborating with coworkers.

“The biggest thing I'm taking away from this is teamwork and how important it will be, no matter where I work,” Ray said. “Everything I learned is about getting my foot in the door -- and that is way better than not.”


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