By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Gabriel Sims and Luke Smith each had similar motivations for attending this week’s Tek2Go Advanced Manufacturing Camp.
“I heard you get to make stuff, and you get to tour plants,” said Gabriel, 13, of Belden.
For Guntown’s Luke, 13, the allure was the chance to “put stuff together.”
“It is pretty fun being able to play around with the machines,” he said.
The two are among 15 students from Northeast Mississippi who will attend the camp this week. It is designed both to introduce them to the career and to attract more top students to the in-demand field. The camp is sponsored by Itawamba Community College, the Community Development Foundation and Hawkeye Industries.
“We are trying to change the image of manufacturing, and make it attractive to students,” said Scott Blackley, director of continuing education at ICC. “It is different than it was in the 1950s and 1960s; it is a different paradigm inside plants. The jobs are higher paying, and higher skills are required. We try to give them a lot of different experiences to see what is going on inside plants.”
On Monday, the campers spent much of the day in the computer numerical control lab on Itawamba Community College’s Tupelo campus, where they used machines to turn a hal-inch metal tube into a pen. As the week-long camp continues, they will tour Universal Asset Management, MTD, Challenge Automation and Tecumseh Products. They will learn welding, and will visit Hawkeye, where they will make a stainless steel clock.
“We want to introduce them to the work of advanced manufacturing in hopes of keeping them in Lee County,” said Gina Black, project manager with CDF.
Campers, like Gabriel and Luke, are rising sixth- to ninth-graders.
“I hope to get a better idea of how manufacturing works, and I hope to get an idea of how to start a business in manufacturing,” Luke said.