SANFORD - Not even rain from a large storm could dampen enthusiasm for industry on Oct. 7, when Central Carolina Community College's Industry Services department welcomed high school students and community members to its annual Manufacturing Day celebration.
Manufacturing Day was created by a coalition of industry groups four years ago to celebrate modern manufacturing throughout North America and inspire the next generation of manufacturers. About 2,600 events were scheduled throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including two in Lee County.
CCCC's open house at The Dr. Paul Howard and Dr. Barbara James Innovation Center -- held not far from a companion event at Mertek Solutions -- drew about 400 students and 17 local manufacturers, each one manning a booth highlighting the company and its products. Among those attending was Dr. Barbara James.
There were plenty of demonstrations as well. With a dozen high school students gathered around, CCCC industrial trainer Bob Jones gave everyone a look at the Innovation Center's Simulated Work Environment, a large production line used to train manufacturing workers.
It was installed by Caterpillar, primarily to train its own employees, but now the simulation room is used by companies throughout the region. Jones said it has trained about 500 people in the principles of lean manufacturing, a systematic way to eliminate waste from the production process.
Just a few yards away, other groups were learning about assembling products and operating a forklift, one student even jumping into the driver's seat to maneuver the machine's lifting mechanism up and down and from side to side.
In a separate room, more were getting an introduction to pneumatic and hydraulic systems. Around the corner, others took turns on a welding simulator.
CCCC Director of Industry Services Cathy Swindell, who works with local companies to train workers, said Manufacturing Day is a chance to show everyone that manufacturing is still an important sector of the national economy -- and a vibrant part of the local community.
"Many students don't even think about manufacturing as a career," Swindell said. "But no matter what it is that you enjoy, no matter what you want to do, you can have a good career in manufacturing and satisfying work for a lifetime."
Others at the Innovation Center shared that point of view.
As visitors wandered through the "industry showcase," a large manufacturing space filled with booths, many stopped in front of a banner emblazoned with the logo for Magneti Marelli Powertrain USA, a local company producing automotive components as part of a multinational with 40,500 employees in 19 countries.
Sarah Nascimento, a training specialist for Magneti Marelli, said this is her company's third year at Manufacturing Day. She appreciates the opportunity to meet students about to enter the workforce, many of whom aren't even aware of local companies and what they produce -- or about options like Magneti Marelli's apprenticeship program that could help them launch a career.
Nascimento said she also appreciates the opportunity to network with companies participating in the industry showcase, another benefit from Manufacturing Day.
Pamela Fincher, CCCC's Director for Trades and Corporate Training who organized the event, says networking is something she hears a lot about from the industry representatives. There's always that "aha moment," as she puts it, a sudden insight where even longtime industrial leaders learn something they never knew about local businesses.
Companies on hand from Lee, Harnett, and Chatham counties represented industries as diverse as cosmetics, robotic machines, food processing, and wood products. In addition to Magneti Marelli, signs drew guests to representatives from Arauco, Boise Cascade, Boon Edam, Caterpillar, Coty, GKN Driveline, General Timber, Hydro Tube Enterprises, Mertek Solutions, Olympic Steel, PalletOne, Pentair, Pilgrim's, Red Wolf, STI Polymer, and Zurn Industries.
Manufacturing Day is celebrated each year on the first Friday of October, though events in some locations are held on other dates in the early fall.
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit the college website at www.cccc.edu.
Central Carolina Community College's Industry Services department was host to high school students and community members at its annual Manufacturing Day celebration.
Manufacturing Day celebration.
Manufacturing Day, High School students getting a first hand look.