High Schoolers Get a Firsthand Look at the World of Work

Some 70 students from Monte Vista High School and El Cajon Valley High School took tour sponsored by the East County Economic Development Council and the Grossmont Union High School District.

About 80 East County high school students got an insiders’ tour this week of three manufacturing plants – and at Cuyamaca College, they got encouragement to continue their education so they can improve their chance of getting a job.

The December 5 tour for students from Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley and El Cajon Valley High School in El Cajon, the first of its kind, was sponsored by the East County Economic Development Council and the Grossmont Union High School District, with sponsorship from Wells Fargo Bank and AT & T.

The career technical education students toured Quality Controlled Manufacturing, Inc., (QCMI) in Santee, which manufactures aviation parts; Taylor Guitars in El Cajon, producers of the renowned guitars; and First Class Packaging in El Cajon.

“It gives them an overview of opportunities in manufacturing that they may never have been able to acquire just by being in the classroom,” said Adena Boxer, director of CTE/ROP for the high school district.

The students donned safety glasses to walk on the factory floors and got a snapshot of a day at work. Amidst the din of machinery, they heard company leaders talk about the importance of staying competitive, finding more efficient ways to work, and being productive.

Rick Urban, chief operating officer at QCMI, chairs the Economic Development Council’s manufacturing, education and workforce subcommittee and has been pushing efforts to engage students in the manufacturing industry. At his company’s factory, students saw what it takes to produce parts for the aerospace, oil and gas industries.

Joshua Martinez, a senior at Monte Vista High School, said he liked being able to walk through a factory and watch employees at work.

“I’m a visual learner,” Martinez said. “I like to see how work is done and I do it.”

The students also toured Cuyamaca College, including the college’s highly regarded automotive technology ornamental horticulture programs.  Cuyamaca College Mark Zacovic told the students that the tour was organized to help them focus their plans after they graduate from high school.

“There are many people in East County who are concerned about your education, your job and your future,” he said.

A panel of manufacturing leaders convened at Cuyamaca College to discuss career opportunities and to answer students’ questions about joining the workplace. Panel members said even businesses that don’t require a college degree encourage their employees to go to college.

“The fact that you have achieved that degree means a whole lot about you,” said Gerry Kowalski, training supervisor at Taylor Guitars.

Urban said his company seeks out employees who appear to have a willingness to learn. “Everyone in our company is always learning something,” Urban said.

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