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Opening eyes – and minds – so great local careers can be discovered

Travis Alden

Guest Commentary

I grew up in small town Michigan: Niles - a small town with some manufacturing facilities such as National Standard and Tyler Refrigeration – and I had ridden or drove past those facilities countless times in my youth. Heck, both of those plants were on the street where I lived. Yet, like nearly all of my peers, I had zero idea of what went on inside those giant buildings.

The concept of a career in manufacturing was completely foreign to me, simply because I didn’t know. I hadn’t been exposed to the opportunities in those big buildings. Therefore, I never even considered a career in that expansive field. What I wanted to do was limited to what I knew.

Luckily, the teens of today here in Barry County don’t have to go blind into their futures without this valuable exposure.

From big-picture events like the regional MI CareerQuest geared to eighth graders to the Barry Career Expo for high school freshmen and our upcoming Barry County Career Exposure Tours that create hundreds of outstanding firsthand opportunities at more than a dozen local companies for high school students…seeing and learning about the myriad of gainful career options right here in our own backyard is – in hindsight – something I wish I’d had access to when I was that age.

Barry County is blessed to have a strong manufacturing sector, with many companies being homegrown and headquartered here. Over 33 percent of our county labor force is employed in manufacturing; twice the state average.

Not only are manufacturing opportunities the staple of our local economy, but these are abundant, challenging careers in a wide range of occupations that pay 35 percent higher wages than the average wage of all jobs in our region – and most come with ample opportunities for professional growth and upward mobility.

From engineers to financial folks to marketing and advertising, quality control, human resources, skilled trades and everything in between: the careers found in our modern manufacturing companies are very exciting and shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone seeking a great career.

Manufacturing also tends to have significant positive ripple effects on a community’s economy. In fact, the multiplier effect – or the output supported in other industries – is $1.33 for every dollar of manufacturing output. This is the highest of any other sector.

I have been absolutely blown away as I’ve become familiar with our Barry County manufacturers over the last three and a half years. The innovation occurring right here in our community inside these big buildings is incredible. The investment in talent and professional development is amazing. The international commerce our local companies are involved with is jaw-dropping.

This week, as we celebrate ‘Manufacturing Week’ locally and throughout the country, Barry County is fortunate to have a proud manufacturing history and tradition.

And so this tradition continues – with state-of-the-art, high-tech, growing businesses with many opportunities – for the next generation of careers in our community.

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