A local business offered some local junior high and high school students a up-close look Friday at what a future in manufacturing could look like.
Tulsa-based AAON Inc., a maker of industrial and commercial HVAC equipment, hosted more than two dozen students from Tulsa MET and Webster high schools in partnership with Youth Entrepreneurs to showcase modern manufacturing as a vibrant and thriving industry that offers diverse and high-paying jobs.
An annual event held in communities across the country, MFG Day is supported by thousands of manufacturers as they host students, teachers, parents and community members at open houses, plant tours and other venues to change the perceptions of manufacturing and highlight the high-tech and innovative aspects of the industry.
First held in 2012 by its founder, the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International MFG Day is now organized by The Manufacturing Institute — the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers.
It is the second year that AAON has participated in the event, said Stephanie Cameron, the company’s community relations administrator.
“This is something that’s happening nationwide,” she said. “It’s a celebration of modern manufacturing, but it’s also encouraging manufacturers to open their doors and be more engaged and be more proactive because the talent pipeline is the biggest issue we’re dealing with.”
In a classroom setting, Cameron shared with the students information about the industry and AAON. Afterward, they toured a portion of the company’s 1.37-million-square-foot campus, setting eyes on workers in areas such as engineering, welding, brazing, assembling and wiring.
Students 17 to 18 years old are eligible for internships that pay $12.50 per hour, Cameron said.
“We work with a lot of schools in the area,” she said. “But these are a couple that we host interns from. This is allowing them to see first-hand what is going on in manufacturing, so if they sign up for the internship program they know what they are getting into.”
About 147,000 people have manufacturing jobs in the state, Cameron said, and the average salary for those positions is $67,000. AAON was founded in 1988.
“Having 2,000 employees, we’re saying, ‘We need to be talking to our own kids and our families to say this is an option for you,’ ” she said. “… Sometimes you find higher education through employment. That’s something that we encourage, too, because we offer tuition reimbursement.”