Manufacturing Connect Participants Share Their Second Impressions

MC Participants David Curry, Yazmin Barajas, Jeremiah Hall

This is the second story about participants in our in current session of Manufacturing Connect, our nationally recognized career pathways program for teens. This session started in January of 2022. We circled back with a few student participants to get their perspective about how it’s going. These participants, who are high school students in Chicago, participated in our virtual Job Shadow event with area companies and other activities. Later in the program, participants will work on group projects in internships with area companies.

For participants in the program, Manufacturing Connect teaches participants skills they’ll need to get a foothold in the workplace – from technical skills to learning how to put together a resume. Meanwhile, it’s also about exposure, as they learn about companies and the wide range of job opportunities in the field.

Participants in Job Shadow Day viewed presentations and tours by staff and employees at Freedman Seating Company and FosterWorks, a sheet metal fabrication company. Both companies are located in Chicago.

Jeremiah Hall

During a Job Shadow event, Jeremiah Hall said he wondered what motivated an employee at the company to work in the manufacturing field. “I liked it when he said the job helped him provide for himself – that really spoke to me. I know a few people who are unable to do that.” Hall says one of the people he learned from in Job Shadow Day was a former participant in the Manufacturing Connect program.

Hall, who is a senior at the Academy of Scholastic Achievement on Chicago’s West Side, also said he saw directly during the Job Shadow event that what he is learning in the Manufacturing Connect program can help him succeed in specific jobs. “I’m learning about measuring tools, blueprint readings, and a lot more. I really wouldn’t have known how to use these tools as well if I hadn’t been in this program.”

“There are some lessons here,” he adds. “I never thought I’d be able to have the skills to read blueprints or micrometers. I feel pretty good about it. The program also helps you learn how to do job applications, and just think about how to get ready for work in the morning.”

“I really liked the Job Shadow Day,” he says. When asked what he would tell other students about this experience, Hall says. “Take notes – that would be the #1 thing. And ask questions.”

Yazmin Barajas

Yazmin Barajas, a senior at the Institute of Science Academy on Chicago’s South Side, says the Manufacturing Connect program has “given me the opportunity to learn more about how a business makes equipment. “ Barajas notes that during a virtual tour of Freedman Seating, a company located on the city’s West Side, “We learned about how the owner talks to a person about what they want, makes an image based on that, and then the product. It gave me a more in-depth look into what I might do.”

“The program helps you understand more about what you do this in this field and what your responsibilities will be. I’m learning how I can expand my horizons.” Barajas, who is interested in interior design, says she hopes to get an apartment in Chicago, and eventually buy a car and go to college as well.  This fall, she says, “I plan to be working and going to school.” Her plan may involve studying interior design at Harold Washington College in Chicago.

On Job Shadow Day, she adds, she saw “a really competitive environment at Freedman Seating – but overall, they treat you like family, not an employee. So that was really comfortable.”

Barajas also emphasizes that it’s important that young women like her have opportunities in the manufacturing field.

As she reflects on what she saw at Freedman Seating, Barajas adds that “What you see, it’s not just about the equipment, but about how to make patterns and use equipment to really decorate the final product. It’s more creative than I had thought.”

David Curry

David Curry, a senior at Harlan Community Academy on the city’s South Side, says that participating in Job Shadow Day “helped me understand that there’s a lot going on in a manufacturing company. You need to be on your game – there’s something to do every day.”

Curry also notes that the work environment he saw during this event was very different than the dark, dirty atmosphere some still associate with the field of manufacturing. “It was professional and family-friendly, I could see that’s what it looked like to me,” he says of Freedman Seating. “It was bright, people were working together – it was definitely not a run-down factory.”

Curry graduates from high school in June and says he is ready for what’s next. “Yes, I have an idea of what I want to do. The first thing that comes to mind is a decent-paying job, building my credit, and getting a new apartment. I’m hoping this program can help me find a job.” He says that down the road, he hopes his options will include going to college to study engineering or perhaps to a trade school to study carpentry or construction.

“I would tell people that the Manufacturing Connect program can help you learn information you will need know in manufacturing.”

For more information about Manufacturing Connect, click here.

-Dan Baron