Stu­dents visit Cooper Tire, learn about man­u­fac­tur­ing

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Ju­nius Stone

Eighth-graders from Texas Mid­dle School wit­nessed a range of oc­cu­pa­tional pos­si­bil­i­ties Thurs­day at the Arkansas-side con­ven­tion cen­ter in a show put on by Cooper Tire.

This is the third year that Cooper Tire has hosted the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Man­u­fac­tur­ing In­sti­tute's “Dream It, Do It” pro­gram that shows young stu­dents em­ploy­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties they may not have con­sid­ered as they ap­proach the end of their pri­mary school ca­reer.

“Col­lege is not for ev­ery­one,” said Scott Cole. “Some young­sters need a dif­fer­ent path.”

The tra­di­tional post-high school route in­volves col­lege and some­times grad­u­ate school. But over the decades, as more stu­dents have taken that course, man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­dus­try have found it harder and harder to fill out their la­bor forces. Some have had the per­cep­tion that Amer­ica no longer makes or builds any­thing, but that is not true.

“Par­ents did much of the steer­ing away from la­bor in years past, as the per­cep­tion of in­dus­try jobs was dark and dreary. Sure, there are those jobs, but to­day, it is so much more,” Cole said.

To­day's man­u­fac­tur­ing in­volves many more tech­niques and ap­proaches, in ad­di­tion to the heavy lift­ing and ma­chin­ery work most imag­ine of in­dus­trial la­bor. Ro­bots are now in­volved. Pro­gram­mers give in­struc­tions to var­i­ous au­to­mated sys­tems that ex­pe­dite the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Then there all the jobs that sup­port the fac­tory and its var­i­ous de­part­ments.

Cole says to­day's stu­dents, in many ways, have an eas­ier time adapt­ing to the cur­rent man­u­fac­tur-

ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“They've grown up with com­put­ers in a way that pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions did not. Us­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with com­put­ers is just some­thing they are used to. This gives them an edge in learn­ing how to op­er­ate au­to­mated sys­tems in many of our pieces of equip­ment,” he said.

Ais­lyn Echols, 13, was sur­prised how in­volved the pro­cesses are in just cre­at­ing a tire.

“I came ex­pect­ing to learn the steps on how to make tires, but the num­ber of lay­ers in a tire sur­prised me,” she said.

Ssee­ing all the jobs in­volved in run­ning a place like Cooper has opened her eyes to em­ploy­ment ideas she has not con­sid­ered.

“I see the pos­si­bil­i­ties,” she said.

Caleb Horne, 13, also felt he had been awak­ened to pos­si­ble ca­reers in this field.

“I like the process of build­ing, the me­chan­ics in­volved. I might like do­ing some­thing like this for a liv­ing.”

Cole said that there's al­ways a small set of stu­dents out of each of these groups that seems in­spired, like a light go­ing on. And that is what it is all about, open­ing them up to pos­si­bil­i­ties they may not have known about or thought of.

“Be­sides teach­ing them about tech­no­log­i­cal and in­dus­trial em­ploy­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties, we want to em­pha­size that in this world, their de­ci­sions will de­ter­mine their di­rec­tion. Who they hang out with, the de­ci­sions they make, the habits they pick up, all this will add up to their fu­ture,” he said.

Par­ents are also ap­pre­cia­tive of the work Cooper Tire does in in­tro­duc­ing stu­dents to this world.

“We've got­ten thank- you let­ters from par­ents, telling us about the im­pact we've had on their kids,” said Cole.

Staff photo by Ju­nius Stone

Evan Fitte, left, and Daniel Bryan, en­gi­neers with Cooper Tire, op­er­ate a ro­bot arm, one of the dis­plays at “Dream It, Do It,” an ori­en­ta­tion for eighth-graders from Texas Mid­dle School to let them know about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of ca­reers in in­dus­try.

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