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posted: 4/12/2012 7:49 PM

Hoffman Estates event promotes manufacturing career as student option

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Wheeling High School teacher Michael Geist knows if a student mentions the word 'manufacturing'' when talking about what he or she wants to do after graduation, parents will probably cringe.

"Unfortunately in today's society I think that the parents don't really understand what manufacturing is," he said. "I believe that often the parents discourage that route ... when actually that's a great option for students of varying levels."

Parents, high school students and young adults interested in the field will have an opportunity to see first hand what manufacturing jobs are like at the Golden Corridor Manufacturing Open House on Wednesday, April 18. The event starts at 7 p.m. at Big Kaiser Precision Tooling Inc., 2600 Huntington Drive in Hoffman Estates. Attendees are asked to register for the free event by emailing

Guests will get a chance to interact with engineers, designers and executives from local companies -- including some younger workers who got jobs in the field right out of high school -- and witness manufacturing in action.

Representatives from Harper College, Elgin Community College and Northern Illinois University will be available to talk about career opportunities.

Gary Skoog, director of economic development for Hoffman Estates, said the intent of the open house is to open people's minds about modern manufacturing.

"We're trying to wipe away some of the myths about manufacturing," he said, adding that he feels open house attendees will be surprised at the advanced technologies that are used in the field, and how clean and modern the facilities are.

Chris Kaiser, president of Big Kaiser, said attendees will probably also be interested in the perks of many manufacturing jobs, such as being paid to get a college education while working part time, and how the demand for people who are skilled in operating and machinery keeps rising.

"You're going to have a whole slew of baby boomers that are going to go into retirement and there's nothing really behind it to fill that void," he said, adding that more jobs are being created in the field in recent years because manufacturing work is moving back to the United States.

He also pointed out that starting pay is sometimes around $50,000 a year and over time, some workers' salaries can reach the six-digit range.

"We just want to flesh some of those options out for the parents and the students," Skoog said. "You don't have to go into debt up to your eyeballs to continue your education."

Wheeling High School's Geist too is hoping the open house will expose to his students to the option of a career that doesn't require going down the four-year college path.

Anyone enrolled in the high school's National Institute for Metalworking Skills class will be required to go, he said. The majority of them are juniors or seniors who will need to make a decision soon about what to do after graduation.

"It just helps them make up their mind," he said.

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