SACO – Students at Thornton Academy in Saco recently had the opportunity to tour Arundel Machine, which held an open house event to celebrate National Manufacturing Day earlier this month. The students, along with other members of the general public, were shown around and had the chance to see how parts are manufactured and how the machinery worked.
National Manufacturing Day is designed to address common misperceptions about manufacturing by allowing manufacturers, such as Arundel Machine, to show people around their facilities.
By holding these open houses nationwide, the manufacturing community hopes to address the shortage in the number of skilled labor available. Part of making sure they are able to fill voids in their workforce is to encourage the next generation to keep the businesses going.
“An important part of our future is making sure we educate today’s students on what modern day manufacturing jobs entail,” said Patrick J. Shrader, vice president of sales and business development at Arundel Machine. “Businesses like ours need to keep the future in mind.”
After arriving at Arundel Machine on Oct. 4, the visiting students from Thornton Academy were taken on a tour, shown how several different kinds of machines operate, and even got to do some hands on things, such as viewing small objects through an electronic microscope.
The students came back with a new outlook on manufacturing facilities. Not only are they not small, dark, and dangerous, but also, new technology has changed the way everyday items are made.
Jared Waterhouse, a sophomore at Thornton, said, “I didn’t know that most of the work was done by computerized machines.”
Even a short while ago, most of the work wasn’t done using highly advanced machines, but rather through manual labor. However, as technology has advanced, so has the manufacturing industry.
The excitement generated by the open house can be seen in the halls at Thornton, with the students who attended talking about the experience and what they learned about the manufacturing industry. Freshmen Lexy Snow and her twin sister Brandy were two students that attended the open house.
“We didn’t know how small they can make parts and the range of products that they make for different companies,” Brandy Snow said. Another thing the sisters took special notice of was not seeing any women on site. “We saw mostly male workers,” she said.
However, due to their introduction to manufacturing, both Brandy and Lexy Snow attended the free hands-on conference for girls that looks at careers in trade and technology fields, which was held at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center last week.
Manufacturing and machining have received a lot of attention at Thornton Academy lately. Not only are many students enrolled at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, but also a new engineering class was added this year to Thornton’s curriculum. In addition, an online course on manufacturing will be offered to students during the spring semester.
Of great interest to the students attending the open house was the fact that Arundel Machine built a part that allowed buoyancy for an Airbus A320, the plane that crashed into the Hudson River in January 2009 with all on board surviving due to the fact the plane did not sink right away.
Desiree Anderson is a junior at Thornton Academy in Saco.