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Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Teachers learn business' needs

By Margie Wuebker

Teachers from New Bremen Local Schools listen as New Bremen Machine and Tool emp. . .

NEW BREMEN - Teachers at New Bremen schools learned Monday that successful careers can be found close to home.
An in-service program took teachers to local businesses where they got first-hand lessons on what skills students need to land a job in the area. Their first stop was at Lock One Theatre, where Crown Equipment officials talked about helping students prepare for life after graduation.
Randy Niekamp, Crown's vice president of human resources, said he frequently attends local commencements and hears reports about most of the graduates heading off to four-year college programs. He fears there are many students who have no idea about the great career opportunities available at Crown and other companies in the area.
As for 16 students currently enrolled in machine trades programs at Tri Star Career Compact, Niekamp said "We could gobble them up in a moment, but we have competition from otherscompanies with similar needs."
Crown, the No. 1 producer of electric lift trucks in the world, employs approximately 3,200 people at plants in New Bremen, New Knoxville, Fort Loramie and Celina. The company expects to lose 25 percent of its current workforce over the next decade due to impending retirements.
Many of the replacements will come from technical schools while others would need associate or bachelor's degrees.
Peter Falk, director of personnel at Crown, said officials consider local educators and parents their partners.
"Area companies need to do more to communicate our needs," Falk said.
Falk also said Crown adheres to the philosophy of vertical integration, meaning 85 percent of the components used in its lift trucks are manufactured in-house.
"We don't have to worry about the effect of a tsunami in some other part of the world," he said. "If we have a problem, we walk to the next building."
Angela Hamberg, economic development director for the village of New Bremen, said a collaborative effort called Hometown Opportunities kicks off Nov. 1 with a goal of raising awareness of available jobs in Mercer and Auglaize counties.
"The intent is to open the eyes of juniors and seniors and their parents to what we have locally," she said.
One teacher asked Crown officials for a list of traits they see as vital in prospective employees. Falk said company representatives will compile a listing.
Teachers then visited two plants at Crown and made stops at Safeway Packaging and New Bremen Machine & Tool. Personnel at each location stressed the need for trained people who have strong math, effective communication and highly technical computer skills.
Jason Clark, who handles sales at New Bremen Machine & Tool, listened as tour group participants expressed amazement at a large laser machine.
"That machine will go nowhere without a trained person and a computer program," he said.
Teachers returned to the high school for closing remarks and to complete surveys for the school's Business Advisory Council, which organized the event.
Superintendent Howard Overman said the tour reinforces the need to incorporate technology and to focus on applying education rather than simply memorizing facts. He added students look to teachers as mentors and will often seek their input regarding career and education choices.
"I've been teaching 13 years and what we saw today was eye opening," vocal music teacher Patty Ruckman said. "The information will help me answer questions from my students."
Fifth-grade language arts teacher Linda Kremer believes students should take a similar tour before they decide whether to enroll in classes at Tri Star.
"They need to see what is out there and that it is possible to earn good wages without going off to four years of college," she said. "There are opportunities for young people with certain skill sets right here at home."
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