Opening Doors and Minds, Manufacturing Day 2018

November 6, 2018


Manufacturing Day took place in Jackson-Madison County and West Tennessee on October 19 and October 26. With beginnings nationwide in 2012, it gives manufacturers a chance to open their doors and showcase what manufacturing is to high school students. It is a great way to open minds to a new career opportunity for a sound future with over 3.5 million manufacturing jobs being generated in the next decade.

On these two days, more than 20 industry sponsors hosted presentations and tours for students in a 14-county region. Over 500 high school students had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders about modern manufacturing and the technical skills needed for today’s workforce.

“Manufacturing Day is an incredible opportunity to bring modern manufacturing to life for our high school students,” said Vicki Bunch, Manager of Workforce Development for the Jackson Chamber. “Jackson Chamber is honored to be a partner in Manufacturing Day, while assisting our local manufacturers with the opportunity to open their facilities and expose students to the many diverse, in-demand, rewarding careers in manufacturing.”

On October 19, Chester County High School students had a chance to walk through the doors of Novolex in Jackson, Tennessee, finding out more about the company and their formula for creating the perfect bag. Locally, Novolex creates bags for the fast food industry including chamber members Chick-Fil-A and Kentucky Fried Chicken.


Students participate in a bag challenge.

Students participated in a team challenge to see who was faster at creating many quality bags in order to win a prize. Human Resources Manager Paul Williams asked questions at the end of the tour and presentation, handing out Novolex swag to the winners.

In our community, Jackson State Community College (JSCC) and Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) give their students the opportunity to work and receive training to not only earn a living, but apply the knowledge they gain for course credit as interns. Ben Cox, an intern at Novolex, spoke to the students, giving an overall view of the facility. One thing the facility and most facilities are big on is safety.


Ben Cox, Novolex intern, and Jake McCaskill, Sonoco intern.

“My personal safety commitment is to always develop an eye for risk prevention,” says Cox. He chose the Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) program at JSCC because he has always loved to work with his hands. He says his older brother also went through the program.

Jake McCaskill from Henderson, was also on hand to answer any questions the students may have. He is also in the AMT program at JSCC and has been interning with Sonoco in Jackson, Tennessee since August. “I love the hands-on aspect and being able to go to school while being able to work and apply it towards your degree,” says McCaskill.

On October 26, Carroll County Technical Center students toured Toyota Bodine Aluminum in Jackson. It has around 300 employees and 80 robots within the facility. Students witnessed the process of building engine blocks, saw a dancing robot, and even participated in a safety demonstration regarding shoes and toe safety.


Jason Bates, administration manager for Toyota Bodine, guides the tour.

“By participating in Manufacturing Day, our industry can share with the next generation of potential team members, the ‘new face’ of manufacturing,” says Jason Bates, administration manager for Toyota Bodine Aluminum. “They will see fascinating technology, team member engagement, and imagine for themselves opportunities for an exciting and fulfilling career.“

Bates went on to explain that Toyota Bodine participates in Manufacturing Day each year because of the positive feedback received. Both students and teachers enjoy the opportunity to see the plant in action and meet with its management team during a Q & A segment. These young folks and their educators leave with a “wow, we had no idea!” feeling. They see firsthand that its Team Members are safe, productive and proud of their work at Toyota Bodine. Many will go home and tell their families and friends.

Across the nation, Manufacturing Day is an annual event that occurs during the month of October. It is a coordinated occasion during which U.S. manufacturers open their doors to demonstrate the potential of modern manufacturing and foster interest in manufacturing careers.

Students learn that manufacturing environments include highly trained, well-paid employees who work on state-of-the-art equipment.

Manufacturing Day provides manufacturers with an opportunity to connect directly with job seekers and students to begin to address the skilled labor shortage they face. Supported by a group of industry sponsors, Manufacturing Day amplifies the voice of individual manufacturers and delivers a coordinated message about common concerns and challenges. The rallying point for a growing mass movement, Manufacturing Day empowers manufacturers to come together to address their collective challenges so they can help their communities and future generations thrive.


Chester County High School students at Novolex in Jackson, TN.


Carroll County Technical Center Students at Toyota Bodine Aluminum in Jackson, TN.

About Manufacturing Day

The event is a grassroots effort by U.S. manufacturers to improve public perception of manufacturing in America by coordinating awareness-raising activities at a variety of locations across the country during the month of October.

Manufacturing Day has enjoyed support from many organizations that have played a vital role in growing this national celebration of all things manufacturing. Manufacturing Day is now produced annually by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) with key contributions and support from the Manufacturing Institute.