One of the most common questions a child can get growing up is “what do you want to be when you get older?” Some children may rattle off what their parents do, or list a common profession they see on T.V., while others may not be so sure.  Knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life can be an overwhelming and nerve-racking decision. How are you supposed to know what career is going to light your heart on fire?

I believe experience and exposure is the best way to help students decide what career path they’d like to pursue in the future. That is why we coordinate the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” contest for middle school students. Learning about different industries like manufacturing at a young age allows students to further explore the career path in high school. Whether it’s taking elective course like auto body shop, job shadowing a CNC machinist, joining the robotics club, or getting a part-time job in an industry of interest, exposure to a specific industry helps students gain insight into what they like and dislike.

By going on a tour and talking to employees, students get to see firsthand the roles people play and the different levels of education each position requires.  Learning about a career in more depth allows students’ questions to be answered and misperceptions to be addressed. Career awareness sheds a light on new possibilities and students can become excited about their newfound career knowledge and education opportunities.

The “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” contest allows students to explore the manufacturing field in a fun and engaging way. While learning about different careers in manufacturing and technology, students can also utilize their creativity skills when producing their manufacturing clip. They learn how to formulate appropriate questions and use effective conversation topics to interview employees. This project allows them to collaborate with their teammates to determine the best way to deliver their content and teaches them about using appropriate volume, clarity and body language while in front of the camera. They also get to dabble in editing and marketing as they perfect their film and compete against other schools.

Our goal is to show students the reality of modern manufacturing and the variety of demanding and fulfilling roles manufacturing has on the design, production, business, and engineering side. One parent commented on last year’s contest saying, “The tour was amazing! The people at Marmen were wonderful. We are not sure how we are going to fit all that amazing stuff into two minutes. So glad we did this.”

Answering the big question about what you want to do with the rest of your life is challenging but can become easier by expanding your awareness and exploring a variety of career options. The more experiences, the better, because they teach you about what a job actually entails rather than what you imagine it to be. More knowledge allows you to make better-informed decisions about your future and pave a path that’s right for you. I would encourage all students to cultivate their curiosity to learn as much as possible about careers that interest them today while keeping an open mind about careers they observe in the future.

To sign up for this fall’s manufacturing video contest, please email Sara.Wevik@usd.edu.

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