More than three dozen Buhler High School teachers traded classrooms for factory floors Monday as they learned firsthand about manufacturing in Hutchinson.
The teachers, counselors and principals listened to presentations and toured the plants of Collins Industries, Kuhn Krause Inc. and Superior Boiler Works in a daylong in-service aimed at informing them about job opportunities for their students and some of the skills students need to land – and keep – those jobs.
The tours were the result of an earlier “workforce town hall” in June when manufacturers met with local educators to talk about their needs and what schools could better do to promote local jobs, said Abby Stockebrand, Economic Development Manager with GreaterHutch.
“After that, the Buhler High School principal reached out to us to offer high school teachers time on their in-service day,” Stockebrand said.
“We have really good training partners in Reno County for ones already on this career path,” Stockebrand said, including the Hutchinson Career and Technical Education Academy at Hutchinson High and Hutchinson Community College programs. “But for those who fall through the gap, who don’t know if they want to go to a four-year college or go right into a career, who are more unaware, teachers are on the front line of that community and telling the potential workforce that there are careers available in Reno County.”
“We want to make sure there’s not a disconnect between what employers need and what educators know is available,” she said. “There is a lot of opportunity in Reno County and we want to make sure to tell the story about those career paths, to make sure educations who have the future workforce in their classrooms know about.”
All teachers at Buhler, including various coaches, were required to participate unless they had other conflicts.
The reason, said Buhler Principal Michael Ellegood, is that teachers and coaches often see interests or talents in their students’ parents or the students themselves might not, and if aware of the opportunities – and needs required to secure them – they can intelligently talk to their students about them.
“In the spring we go through individuals plans of study with the kids and their parents,” Ellegood said. “This is showing us different paths and opportunities for work.”
The Chamber is working with other area schools to schedule like tours in the future.
“We found the sooner you get to them, the more influence you have on kids,” said Eddie Smith, Kuhn Krause director of operations. “A lot of them don’t understand that manufacturing is not the dirty, nasty job it was in the past. What we’re looking for is to change their attitudes about it as a career, and let them know you can make some good money in manufacturing.”