There are good career opportunities in manufacturing in North Dakota, said Thomas Shorma, CEO/president of WCCO Belting. And they might be careers students don’t typically consider to be related to the industry.
Shorma was the keynote speaker at Manufacturing Day at Harold Newman Arena on the University of Jamestown campus. The fourth annual event organized by the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center usually draws about 10 schools but only Milnor Public School participated this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Katherine Roth, executive director.
Shorma said people working in manufacturing include high school graduates and those with a two-year or four-year degree. He said opportunities for careers in manufacturing include finance, IT, logistics, sales and marketing and others.
“There’s a lot more opportunities in manufacturing than people think,” Shorma said.
WCCO Belting of Wahpeton, N.D., is a manufacturer of rubber conveyor belting used in agricultural and industrial equipment. It has 200 employees in Wahpeton and 77 in Arlington, Texas, and sells its products in more than 20 countries, Shorma said.
Manufacturing Day is held to give students in grades 9-12 an idea of what career opportunities existing in the manufacturing industry. About 10 businesses and educational institutions, fewer than usual due to the pandemic, attended to promote what they could offer the students, Roth said.
“It’s a great way for them to learn about potential employment opportunities in the manufacturing industry as well as educational tracks that can help them reach those goals,” she said.
Institutions of higher learning at the event included the University of Jamestown, North Dakota State University, Bismarck State College and Trinity Bible College. Businesses represented included Cavendish Farms, Champ Industries, Butler Machinery and Healthy Oilseeds, Roth said.
Brittany Thomas, talent acquisition specialist, and Tony Bundy, production coordinator at Cavendish Farms, said the positions in need vary at the plant that has an average of 220 employees in Jamestown. This was the third year Cavendish representatives attended the event, Thomas said.
"We love seeing all the high school students, having them here, just telling them what we do, what our company offers, what kind of options they have out of high school," she said.
Jaden Anderson, a senior at Milnor Public School, said he’s thinking about attending NDSU.
“It’s definitely interesting,” he said of the event. “I think I’m pretty set on precision ag.”
Anderson was one of three seniors and 12 students from the school who attended.
Gage Sundquist, another senior, said he’s interested in manufacturing, perhaps as a side job although he’s open to it becoming more of a career.
“I’m planning on going to NDSCC (North Dakota State College of Science) for diesel mechanics, general mechanics,” he said. He is also going to take welding courses.
Sasha Heiken, the school counselor at Milnor, said the purpose of the students attending was to show the students the opportunities that are available.
“We’re just trying to expose them to different career paths,” she said. “Open their eyes to different careers that are available to them in manufacturing. ”
Milnor has 250 students in grades K-12.