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Manufacturing Day 2019 Encourages Next Generation of Innovators

by Emily McGrath, Deputy Director of Workforce Development, NextFlex

On October 11, at Jabil Blue Sky Innovation Center in San Jose, over 125 high school students gathered to learn more about how they can pursue careers in manufacturing. Students from around Silicon Valley representing Lincoln, Yerba Buena, Piedmont, Overfelt, Metro Ed, Leigh, and Fremont, Cupertino and Monta Vista High Schools – toured the facility watching Jabil employees perform stress tests, use 3D printers for additive manufacturing, track supply chain trends in other Jabil facilities, and more. They also participated in a panel Q&A where they asked three Jabil employees questions about what it’s like to work in manufacturing.

A student pressurizes a chamber to test the adhesive seals on a device.

The event also included an education/career fair with representatives from NextFlex, Manufacture: San Jose, the Silicon Valley Organization, San Jose Works, Evergreen Valley College, and San Jose State University who were on hand to provide guidance to the high schoolers about higher education pathways and to demonstrate some of the technologies that make manufacturing such an interesting field to be in.

On the tour, students were impressed with the variety of products that manufacturers create, from IoT-enabled devices to MedTech to acoustic technology and beyond. Jabil employees impressed upon them that there are many different career paths for them at a manufacturing facility. They saw that today there is much more to manufacturing than working on an assembly line, there is the innovation process itself, prototyping, design, engineering, and fulfillment.

In the Q&A, they heard about how each employee’s day varies from each other, and, for some, each day isvastly different than the day before. Some days, an engineer will be at their desk all day, other times they will be in the lab running tests, and some days they will be training new engineers. To overcome the fear of knowing enough to be successful as a new hire, engineers spend part of their time teaching and mentoring new employees and interns. Students learned that there is a support system in place for new hires to help them succeed.

Some employees spoke about the challenges of working in manufacturing. The technology, for example, can present problems that, rather than solely being frustrating, can prove to be interesting and rewarding to solve. “I’m often faced with challenges that I have little reference for,” said Eddie, a Jabil engineer. “But we’re always equipped with access to a team that is willing to help when we need it. We can’t do everything alone, and that’s why we’re part of a team.”

Students watch as a vein projector maps their veins.

Many of the students were curious about what educational paths they would need to take in order to pursue a career working at a company like Jabil. They quickly discovered that there is no one way to get the education required. Each member of the Jabil team came from a different educational background, showing the students that there is an opportunity for them, no matter what degree they choose. After speaking with a variety of Jabil staffers, the high schoolers gained valuable insights and are much more equipped to make decisions about their future educations to help develop the next generation of manufacturers and innovators.