‘Manufacturing your Future’
LaValley shuts down his plant for two days in order to teach five classes of fifth graders about manufacturing
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Vice President of Marketing
(Lynn Shelton, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Minnesota)
Jason LaValley thinks a long-term solution to the ongoing the skills gap and worker shortage faced by manufacturers starts by reaching out to students when they are still in elementary school. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
LaValley, owner of LaValley Industries in Bemidji, explained his vision at the last of our State of Manufacturing® regional events this week at the headquarters of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Enterprise Minnesota’s partner in the northwest area of the state.
Like most manufacturers, LaValley has logged a lot of time at job fairs, visiting with students in the hopes of interesting them in a career in manufacturing. When students ask what he offers, he responds with a question of this own.
“I ask them, what do you know about manufacturing?,” he says. “Nine times out of 10 times they’ll say, “welding and grinding.”
“They have a fundamental misperception about the opportunities that manufacturing can provide. They just haven’t been taught about what opportunities are out there.”
And by then, it’s probably too late, he says.
He looked at his own experience, in which his parents taught him from a very early age what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“They had several businesses, and not all made it. There were some hardships and some successes. But what they taught me is “can’t” is not a word. These were the fundamentals that I brought with me when I started my business.”
So, a couple years ago, he decided he would show fifth graders what it meant to be a manufacturer. He shuts down his entire plant for two full days and buses in Bemidji’s entire fifth-grade class (at his expense) for a program he calls “Manufacturing Your Future.”
He shows them about all the opportunities, from sales, marketing, service development, engineering, procurement, assembly, finance, and administration. “There are so many different jobs, good paying jobs, jobs our community needs,” he says.
We create a child-friendly environment. We show them manufacturing. We talk about the different jobs in manufacturing.
He uses movies and demonstrations to give students full exposure to manufacturing in three ways. LaValley shows them how they can develop ideas, starting with cardboard cutouts. “We color them, design them, cut them out and assemble them,” he says. “Just like I did in my garage with my dad and my grandfather. Students get a full tour of his facility and even a chance to play on the equipment.
“It’s a big expense to shut down for two days,” he admits. But probably more like an investment.
Look for further coverage on “Manufacturing Your Future” in an upcoming edition of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.
2018 Southeastern Minnesota Manufacturers Gathering
**Exclusive to Manufacturers**
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
7:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Rochester International Event Center
7333 Airport View Dr. SW
Rochester, MN 55902
What to Expect
Join us for the 2018 Southeastern Minnesota Manufacturers Gathering to network and highlight the great careers available in the region.
7:00 – 7:30 a.m.
Breakfast & networking
7:30 – 7:45 a.m.
Opening remarks by Mike Jensen, president & CEO, Gauthier Industries
7:45 – 8:15 a.m.
2018 State of Manufacturing® survey results by Bob Kill, president & CEO, Enterprise Minnesota
8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
9:15 – 10:00 a.m.
Group discussion session
10:00 – 10:20 a.m.
10:20 – 11:00 a.m.
Report out group discussion
11:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Wrap up/closing remarks by Mike Jensen
Click here to learn more and register
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