$2,600 gets you $41,000. While that almost sounds like some bookmaker’s odds, it was the underlying theme of the recent VMA Manufacturing Champions School Counselor/Teacher Bus Tour. This event took school teachers and career counselors through the county on plant tours and followed with a luncheon and panel discussion.

The primary messages was a career in manufacturing is no longer a fallback position to college but an equal alternative for students making career decisions. The 100 participants, started with tours at three local companies, Thompson Pump in Port Orange, Pall Corp in Deland and Teledyne in Daytona.

Next the folks were loaded on busses to other sites including a 45 minute tour of Command Medical in the Ormond Airport Industrial Park. David Slick, the founder of this multinational medical equipment company, greeted the participants with an enthusiastic welcome. He and his staff emphasized the workforce of over 100 people had come from all levels of education. Corina Parra-Ortiz Command’s Director of Human Resources passed out a flyer that listed 16 different career opportunities at the Ormond site. They reiterated the comments made earlier when the tour passed Edgewell (formerly Hawaiian Tropic). The counselors learned many high school graduates with experience in the plant are making $50,000 per year with overtime.

All the tour stops were quick to point out the value of high school graduates who also had some advanced training in manufacturing skills. Ron Eaglin, Associate Vice President at Daytona State College arranged for a stop at the DSC’s Advanced Technology College. Here the counselors saw a facility that provides advanced manufacturing training and had a “WOW” moment when they heard about a nine month machining program that leads to the $41,000 jobs for about $2600 in costs.

The day was sprinkled with “WOW” moments as they also learned how many different types of college degrees found a home in manufacturing. Every company on the tour had reported hiring majors with a variety of skills including Sales, Marketing, Math, Science, Logistics and Human Resources Management.

Rick Hervey, Deland High School, pointed out his ‘WOW” moment was learning that in the Ormond Industrial Park there are over 1500 manufacturing employees and that was similar to industrial parks in many other local cities. Natalie White, Bethune-Cookman University Career Services, commented that her “WOW” was learning how many opportunities existed for success without the skills and training from a college degree.

Nou Thor, School Counselor, Galaxy Middle School, summed up the thoughts of most participants. Thor said “Today has been an amazing day so far, we are learning so much about the manufacturing businesses in Volusia County, which we never knew existed. Touring the different companies has been eye opening. I will talk to my students about what is available in manufacturing and that it is a good way to make a living.”

Jayne Fifer, President/CEO, VMA, felt the goal of creating manufacturing evangelists was met when Gary Wallace, Holly Hill School, stated “This was truly an eye-opening experience for me, and I will be a champion of the cause!”

The seven hour tour, wrapped up with a luncheon in the Bill France room at the Speedway and a panel discussion. The panel included Mary Bruno a former Vice President at DSC discussed internships, Kathy Spencer, CareerSource Flagler Volusia, discussed the Community Career Portal. Two “in the trenches” workers, Mary Curry, Edgewell, who after 31 years in the plant had full responsibility for Health and Safety and Ryan Theodore, Mechanical Engineer, Pall Corp. Theodore, an engineering graduate of University of Tennessee, had held positions in several other states but had happily found a home in an area manufacturer.

Dr. Weems, Assoc VP, College of Workforce, Continuing and Adult Education, Daytona State College, concluded the presentation by expressing her confidence that the group could carry the message of opportunities to the students, parents and teachers they encounter in their roles in education.

Written by Wayne Van Orden, Naarden, Inc.