Sea Ray employee Chris Lamb, a graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School, talks to students from Mantanzas High and FPC on Friday during a tour of the Sea Ray Boats facility in Flagler Beach. The students are part of the Flagler Schools Classrooms to Careers program. News-Journal/JIM TILLER
By Aaron London
Published: Friday, January 22, 2016 at 3:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 7:09 a.m.
The idea that "children are our future" is not just a catchy line from a song or a cliche for Jayne Fifer, president and CEO at VMA manufacturing alliance. It is the hard truth for local manufacturing and the reason she spent the morning with more than 50 students from Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas high schools.
"There's a huge skilled labor shortage and it's caused, in part, because people aren't aware that manufacturing exists here," Fifer said.
Fifer gave the students an overview of local manufacturing before the group traveled to tour the Sea Ray Boats plant and Contemporary Machinery & Engineering in Flagler County.
"I want to turn everyone I talk to into a champion for manufacturing," Fifer told the students. "The opportunity for jobs are tremendous."
The manufacturing tour was part of Flagler Schools Classrooms to Careers program, which aims to offer Flagler County students opportunities to learn about a range of career opportunities.
"We're really trying to connect it to the targeted industries in Flagler County," said Lynette Shott, the district's director of Student and Community Engagement. "Through conversation with CareerSource, the (Flagler County) Chamber and the economic development department, we know there is anticipated high demands for jobs in this area."
Shott said the tour was an opportunity to increase the students' awareness of potential careers in Flagler County "and do it at a point where they are still able to make decisions on their high school classes that would build a background in that."
After Fifer's presentation in the FPC Bistro, students boarded a chartered bus provided by the Flagler Education Foundation for the trip to the Sea Ray facility.
The group toured the manufacturing plant and heard from one of their own, FPC grad Chris Lamb, who now works for the boatbuilder.
"There are definitely career opportunities in the county," he said.
In addition to serving as tour guide, Lamb offered the students advice on being a productive employee, regardless of career path.
"It's really important that you start thinking about being reliable," he told the students. "If you don't show up to work, you don't get paid. And it's very important that you're eager to learn."
Lamb's message about career opportunities was not lost on some of the high school students.
"It was very interesting," said FPC freshman Jericho Valles. "I kind of want to work at Sea Ray. It definitely opens up more opportunities."
FPC sophomore Jonathan Figueriredo said the tour was worth the time.
"It opened my mind up some," he said.
For Fifer, that is the hoped-for response.
"Our major effort now is to get into the schools and talk about careers in manufacturing as much as we can," she said.
This was the first manufacturing tour in the Classrooms to Careers program, Shott said, which aims to focus the district's career efforts on targeted industries including agriculture, aerospace, green technology, health science engineering and computer science, marine research, finance and business.
"It's really about creating awareness that will lead (students) into the paths that we are working to align with the industries to ensure there is that career support and path from the classroom to their careers," she said.