WATERTOWN — North country manufacturers displayed the tools and tricks of their trade to students interested in the industry Thursday for Manufacturing Day.
Eleven students from Watertown High School toured Roth Industries, one of 22 companies who hosted tours from schools. They watched and questioned workers like supervisor Mark Hanlin who showcased equipment like the blow molder used to make the plastic portion of Roth’s double-wall oil tanks and a band saw that cuts high density polyurethane boxes used for roadblocks.
Tijuan Rock, 17, marveled as the hot plastic liquid poured into the mold that pressed and hardened it into the shape of Roth’s roadblocks. The Watertown High School senior said he wants to design his own clothing, and in order to cut costs, he hopes to make it with his own facilities. Learning the manufacturing process is essential for Tijuan to achieve his goal, he said. He toured Roth last year for Manufacturing Day; he witnessed more machinery in action this year.
“Seeing different aspects of how things are made can help me in the long run,” he said.
Manufacturing Day is a national event created to encourage students to pursue careers in the industry with plant tours and informational sessions. Companies in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have participated in the event since 2012, although they began incorporating plant tours since 2014.
David J. Zembiec, deputy CEO of Jefferson County Economic Development, said events like Manufacturing Day help fuel the future workforce, a critical need for companies across various industries dealing with a small labor pool. Retiring baby boomers, an exodus of residents and low unemployment have left companies and organizations struggling to fill vacancies with qualified workers in recent years.
Mr. Hanlin said Roth has also struggled to recruit workers, particularly people who can work hands-on with machines. The company recently hired 12 employees, and Mr. Hanlin said it may need more.
“It’s been tough for us,” he said.
Manufacturing Day also highlights world-class companies and plants in the area and demonstrates the variety of careers in the industry, including engineers, designers, machine operators, electricians and more, Mr. Zembiec said. About 1,000 students from 30 school districts across the three counties attended this year’s event.
“So far from what we heard, things went pretty smoothly,” Mr. Zembiec said.
Tayvon Johnson, 13, said he hopes to become a civil or software engineer someday, and he attended the tour at Roth to learn as much as possible and the processes involved with it and manufacturing.
“It was really cool. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” the Watertown High School freshman said. “I learned a lot today, and it will definitely help me in the future.”