Students learn more about local industries
This past Thursday, hundreds of local high school students packed into the Russellville Middle School gymnasium to attend the first ever “Made in Franklin” event that gave them a glimpse of what Franklin County can offer them in the future.
High school students from both the Russellville City and Franklin County school systems looked at booths set up by some of the top businesses and industries in the county and were able to learn more about the career paths and job opportunities they could pursue once they graduate from high school.
Mitch Mays, executive director of the Franklin County Development Authority, which sponsored the event, said the purpose of “Made in Franklin” was to allow these businesses and an opportunity to set up a booth that tells all about their company and the kinds of jobs their company offers, the types of training or higher education it requires to have those jobs, and how local students can one day fill those positions.
Mays said the event was a huge success, and he believed the event did exactly what they hoped it would do.
“We had a great turnout from our businesses and industries, and they had some very impressive displays set up to show these students exactly what their company is all about,” Mays said.
“I hope the students were able to walk away with a better understanding of the type of companies and jobs that are available in Franklin County and training that is available to bring them to attain those kinds of jobs.”
Mays said he has heard from many people in the community who don’t believe there are many opportunities for local students to find work once they graduate without going outside of the county.
Wanting to correct this misconception, Mays said he and other event organizers drew inspiration for “Made in Franklin” from a similar event held in DeKalb County.
“After we learned about their event and how they were able to put business and industry together with local education, we decided this was something we wanted to do here in Franklin County as well,” Mays said.
“Our goal with this event was to improve our workforce development efforts in the county. Industries need a trained or trainable workforce and students need an opportunity to learn what careers are available to them.”
Scott Wiginton, the director of the Franklin County Career Technical Center in Belgreen, said this was an amazing opportunity for his students.
“By seeing some of these products that are made right here in the county, the students can have a better idea of what these companies do and how they can be part of these companies,” Wiginton said.
He said it’s also a great opportunity for the students to see some real-life connections to the things they are learning in the classroom.
“So many times the students are sitting there wondering how this math class or this English class or science class is going to matter to them later on,” he said.
“By talking to the representatives from these companies, these students can see just what skills and what knowledge is needed for certain jobs.
“All of a sudden, that algebra class is more exciting because they need to know this math when making cabinets or working with routers, and that anatomy class has a little more meaning because it will help them later on when they are taking classes in the health sciences field. That type of applied learning is really important.”
In addition to the businesses and industries that were on hand, representatives from Northwest-Shoals Community College and local school guidance counselors were also at the event to provide information about classes and fields of study that would line up with many of the businesses represented at the event.
“Right now I have six different companies in a 30-mile radius that could use two to three machinists,” NW-SCC machine shop instructor Matt Johnson said.
“We put out four to six machinists a year, and there is a big demand for machinists right now, and these students can get that training for those jobs right here close to home.
“This is a great event to let these high school students know about these opportunities and to get them interested in it.”
Mays said he had gotten a lot of positive feedback from school personnel as well as the businesses, and they are already making plans to attend next year’s event.
“We’re glad this first year went well,” Mays said. “We hope to keep building on it and have an even better event next year.”