Manufacturing is a big part of our area economy. We also know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find workers to keep the manufacturing industry fully staffed.

So, with Manufacturing Month in the rearview mirror, now’s the time to start planning for next October.

One way to attract employees is to host an open house celebrating “October is Manufacturing Month.” Targeting this to the local high school can be effective at capturing both college and non-collegebound future employees.

Rusty Schieber, vice president of operations support at Brakebush Brothers in Westfield, offered suggestions in a recent article in the Wisconsin Business Voice on how to plan such an event for next year.

It’s important, he said, to plan early and find a sponsor within the school who can help you recruit students and assist in the logistics of the event from the school’s side.

Following is Schieber’s outline for planning a successful event.

Start coordinating the event early.

Contacting your local schools in April or May is not too early for the October event. Starting to plan in September is too late. Remember that not only are the students off in the summer but most of the school’s staff are off also. Getting in contact with a potential sponsor from within the district is doubly hard when they are on summer break. Early planning will allow time for the school to budget and allocate funding for transportation as well as to get it onto the school’s calendar. Many principal’s have a small pool of discretionary funds. If funding becomes an issue, try to tap into that resource. With this being July, don’t worry, you are not behind the power curve. Start coordinating with your local high school as soon as possible.

Schedule the open house between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The open house must fit within the normal school day. The closer your manufacturing facility is to the school the wider your scheduling window becomes. Anticipate that the students cannot leave the school before 9 a.m. and must be back to the school by 3 p.m. To buy time, schedule the open house mid- day and feed the kids lunch. Use that lunch time for personal interaction with the students by your employees. High school kids can eat so don’t short them in that regard.

Clearly document and communicate the range of occupations that your company employs. Most companies and most local families recognize that their local manufacturing facilities need shop floor “production workers.” That is true. What most companies fail to sell and local families fail to recognize is that a company is much more than production workers. Today’s manufacturing companies include entry level production workers as well as highly trained skill positions such as welders, electricians, electronic techs, computer programmers and analysts as well as the professional positions such as accountants, scientists, business professionals, lawyers and engineers.

Highlight all your employment requirements as well as your in-house educational and apprenticeship options. Sell your business. The goal of your open house is to have immediate influence on your local students who do not plan on attending a fouryear college, as well as seeing a delayed response by those students who do plan to attend a university.

Find a sponsor within the school

An event may be perfectly planned but without a champion within the school selling the event on your behalf, participation will suffer. Potential promoters of the event include the local Skills USA coach, FFA or FBLA advisor, tech rd instructional staff, guidance staff or even a teacher who has a spouse employed in the manufacturing sector. The actual role of the promoter within the system may not be as important as having an energetic voice within the system who can assist in influencing students to attend. Normal parental communication channels such as the school’s website and newsletter can also be used to get parental support, but we all know that the real influencers are within the physical walls of the local high school.

Another great option to showcase your company to the local high school’s students is to host a Mini Business World. The Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce Foundation’s Business World and Mini Business World bring real business simulations to High School students. Hosting a one-day Mini Business World brings those students having an interest in business into your walls. Cost is minimal and WMC Foundation does most the work.

Planning an open house during Manufacturing Month and hosting a Mini Business World program are great opportunities to influence the next generation of workers. When it comes to planning an open house, remember to be proactive. Early planning will help ensure a successful event for both the students, as well as your company.