Central Illinois Youth Discover Manufacturing Careers

Nearly 1,300 high school students from across Central Illinois recently gathered at the Peoria Civic Center for the Discover Manufacturing Central Illinois Career Expo. This is the fourth year the expo has provided Central Illinois manufacturers a unique way to show young minds that manufacturing is a viable and growing career opportunity in our area.

This year’s Discover Manufacturing Central Illinois Career Expo featured tours of local manufacturers such as Caterpillar, hands-on displays, guest speakers and interactive technology demonstrations. The expo was designed to showcase what modern manufacturing really looks like as well as explore the skills needed to succeed in the fast-paced and ever-changing manufacturing environment.

Of the 33 participating high schools, three schools were given the opportunity to tour Caterpillar building LL in East Peoria, Ill. While in building LL, students experienced first-hand how employees have built successful manufacturing careers at Caterpillar. Students were taken through several demonstrations including safety, welding, machining, quality, robotics and assembly.

Chad Young, a fabrication specialist and third generation Caterpillar employee, took a few moments to walk students through his daily work. He demonstrated the safety equipment, tools and skills, such as mathematics, that he uses to produce high quality work for Caterpillar.

Eunice Bazhenow, also a fabrication specialist, performed a weld demonstration. Each of the students were given hand-held face shields, allowing them to take an up-close look at proper welds and welding techniques. Hands down, it was the most notable stop on the tour, according to many of the students.

At the conclusion of the tour, Malik Jackson, a senior at Peoria Manual High School, said that he hopes to go straight into the workforce after graduation. Over the past couple of years, Caterpillar has donated several items to Manual High School’s welding and vocational program. Jackson was a part of the program last year where he learned the basics of how to weld.

“You really have a lot you have to think about,” said Jackson, as he noted the size of the welds used with our equipment. “This would be an awesome place to work.”

Once at the Civic Center, students explored the career booths before hearing from several industry and community experts. The day concluded with a live technology demonstration from FIRST Robotics. Robotic machines were positioned at the front of the conference center launching Frisbees, making both kids and teachers jump to their feet and experience the fun side of modern technology.