Students “manufacture” future interests in Darke County


By Dawn Hatfield

GREENVILLE — On Friday, October 7, students from all eight public schools celebrated Darke County Sophomore Manufacturing Day 22. More than 600 sophomores were invited to participate in tours at area facilities to learn more about local careers in manufacturing.

National Manufacturing Day, observed the first Friday of October, is an annual event where manufacturers showcase modern techniques and help to foster interest in manufacturing careers. This marks the ninth year Sophomore Manufacturing Day has been celebrated in Darke County with the pairing of each local public school with a local manufacturer. Sophomores have taken part in onsite tours at local manufacturers yearly, with the exception of 2020 when manufacturers provided virtual tours and career information through online meetings due to COVID restrictions.

Hosting manufacturers in 2022 included Whirlpool Corp—Greenville Facility, Superior Aluminum Products, Midmark Corporation, JAFE Decorating, Greenville Technology Inc., FRAM, and ARCH Cutting Tools.

The event, coordinated by Darke County Economic Development (DCED), is one of multiple opportunities provided by DCED for local students to learn about careers right here at home. In addition to seeing demonstrations of modern manufacturing, students hear about the wide range of careers available throughout manufacturing, many of which do not require a four-year degree to make a lucrative living. Additionally, many manufacturers in the area will pay for college or technical training for their employees, allowing them to earn while they learn and avoid debt often associated with higher education.

John Stephens, Superintendent of Arcanum-Butler Schools, said he supports Manufacturing Day as it “showcases opportunities within Darke County.” Stephens explained the students are often surprised by the efficiency, cleanliness, and organization of manufacturing sites, such as Whirlpool. According to Stephens, students are often impressed by the fact we have worldwide corporations in our own backyard.

Whirlpool Plant Lead Renato Esteves explained his desire to participate in Manufacturing Day is because “kids are the future.” Esteves, who began his career as a floor operator, said his goal is to open doors to the community and allow students to see manufacturing may be different from what they initially envision. Esteves is proud of the innovation at Whirlpool, including the use of robotics and artificial intelligence. Whirlpool offers multiple levels of advancement in manufacturing, quality, logistics, human resources, finance, and product design. He beamed while stating, “The Greenville facility is the only Whirlpool small appliance operation in the world—it all comes from here.”

Research and Development Manager Joshua Billenstein at JAFE Decorating was excited to share the more than 7,000 color formulas his company has available. In creating a color formula, Billenstein explained precision is measured to the thousandth of a gram. Once the new color is created, a draw-down is made and a spectrophotometer is used to measure the amount of light reflected off and transferred through the color. Billenstein asked students, “Does anyone know about Delta E?” giving a nod to calculus and reassuring students that some careers after high school actually do use advanced mathematics!

In the JAFE paint kitchen, Chelsea Howard explained how being just a little bit “off” during mixing can make a big difference when creating huge, 250-gallon batches of paint. Howard showed students the computer-generated quality checks but emphasized the need for “human adjusting” when the tolerance range is met yet the color still seems off. Perhaps most notable in Howard’s interaction with students was her excitement about her own personal journey at JAFE. Howard detailed her rise to the position of mixer, saying, “This place is all about growth!”

In addition to annual Manufacturing Day, where students truly get a behind-the-scenes look at how many everyday products are created, local businesses and schools also coordinate with DCED to provide summer manufacturing camp for students in grades seven and eight as well as job shadowing for juniors and seniors in Darke County.

For additional information on Manufacturing Day or other workforce-related events, contact Workforce Specialist Tamala Marley at DCED: [email protected].

Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at 937-569-0066 or [email protected].

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