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updated: 10/15/2020 11:54 AM

Celebrating Manufacturing Month by highlighting the importance to local economy

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  • The ExxonMobil Joliet Refinery places a high priority on community partnership. Over the last 10 years the company and its employees have contributed nearly $2 million to the United Way through their annual campaign and have dedicated countless hours volunteering for local charitable causes.

    The ExxonMobil Joliet Refinery places a high priority on community partnership. Over the last 10 years the company and its employees have contributed nearly $2 million to the United Way through their annual campaign and have dedicated countless hours volunteering for local charitable causes.

  • Daisy Mireles, a student in JJC's Operations Engineering & Technician program, works on a pump during one of her classes. The OET program prepares students with the education and training needed to become an operator or maintenance position in the petrochemical, manufacturing or nuclear industry.

    Daisy Mireles, a student in JJC's Operations Engineering & Technician program, works on a pump during one of her classes. The OET program prepares students with the education and training needed to become an operator or maintenance position in the petrochemical, manufacturing or nuclear industry.

  • Calculating and configuring are all part of Loni Pierce's day-to-day routine. Using computer-based information to analyze and repair equipment inside the plant, her days at Joliet Junior College studying Electrical Electronics Automated Systems have prepared her for her 30-year career with LyondellBasell.

    Calculating and configuring are all part of Loni Pierce's day-to-day routine. Using computer-based information to analyze and repair equipment inside the plant, her days at Joliet Junior College studying Electrical Electronics Automated Systems have prepared her for her 30-year career with LyondellBasell.

 
By Melissa Lachcik
Joliet Junior College

Manufacturing is essential to every aspect of our world and serves as a catalyst by creating a ripple effect that impacts other important areas, including the local economy.

Take a moment to think about the products that we use on a daily basis and it becomes even more evident how important manufacturing really is. From the vehicles we drive and fuel that goes in the tank to food and beverage products, the manufacturing industry and its workforce has an important role.

Workforce contributions

Over the years manufacturing has transformed into an innovative, high-tech industry that provides a pathway to rewarding career opportunities.

The shop floor isn't what it used to be. Technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry by incorporating robotics, automation and 3D printing into production processes.

"The perception of manufacturing has changed over the years from a low-skill, dirty and dangerous job to a high-tech, high-skill and high-paying one," said Randy Tatum, site manager of the LyondellBasell Morris Complex. "At LyondellBasell we employ some of the finest professionals in our industry right here in Grundy County."

There is a shortage of skilled workers in the manufacturing sector due to a retiring workforce and lack of qualified applicants, therefore, the employment outlook is very favorable. Manufacturing provides opportunities for employees to live in the communities where they work, which stimulates spending into the local economy.

Value-added benefits

For every product that gets manufactured there are numerous value-added benefits to the supply chain. Whether it's the supplier of raw materials, the transportation company delivering the product or any job in between, there's a multitude of companies and personnel that contribute to the entire manufacturing process. Essentially this equates to more jobs in a variety of career pathways across multiple sectors.

Industry and education partnerships

Recruiting, preparing and growing the talent base is among the most critical challenges facing manufacturers. The best opportunity to train students for manufacturing careers is for businesses to partner with school districts and community/technical colleges such as Joliet Junior College's Operations Engineering and Technician Associate degree programs.

Since the OET program began in 2015, JJC has enjoyed solid partnerships with industry leaders such as LyondellBasell, TC Energy, Aux Sable, CITGO Petroleum Corporation and Exelon Generation.

Amy Murphy, JJC's dean, applied arts, workforce education & training said, "Our industry partners have been instrumental in shaping the OET program's curriculum, ensuring that our students are real-world ready through internship experiences as well as providing employment opportunities after graduation."

JJC also has a dual-enrollment/pre-apprenticeship program, Advanced Integrated Maintenance, where high school students can attend college part-time their senior year to begin their career path in advanced manufacturing. In addition, JJC is the program sponsor of a registered apprenticeship program and partners with local manufacturers to increase the number of apprentices in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Community investment

Not to be overlooked are the significant contributions that manufacturers make to our local communities through outreach initiatives that include charitable organizations, scholarships, food drives, environment-friendly programs and events to increase interest in manufacturing. These contributions show the commitment that manufacturers have to not only be part of their community but also give back.

ExxonMobil Joliet refinery manager Monica Mainland expressed her appreciation for all that her colleagues do to operate the refinery with excellence and to build strong partnerships with the community.

"We operate in a challenging and dynamic business environment. As a company, we leverage our employees' diverse backgrounds, experiences and thought to deliver creative solutions," she said.

Efforts like volunteerism, environment-friendly practices and philanthropy continue to be the primary focus for manufacturing companies across the globe. At the end of the day, manufacturing is much more than making a product; it's about the passion and purpose that provides a solid foundation for our local economy and continues to be the lifeblood of our communities.

For the entire article, visit www.trainingupdate.org.

• Melissa Lachcik is the continuing education development coordinator at Joliet Junior College.