For the past seven years, the Greater Lafayette, Ind. Commerce has hosted a Manufacturing Week event, where students from nine counties and more than 27 school districts are invited to attend. This year, the event was held virtually and expanded into a month-long event.
Kara Webb, workforce development director for the Greater Lafayette Commerce, explained that the goal of the event is to spread awareness about the manufacturing industry, its career possibilities and prepare students for future. Webb has been leading the event since it was created in 2014, which was a one-day only event that included 300 high school students. This year, more students were able to participate than ever before, totaling more than 4,100 students throughout grades K-12.
“Celebrating manufacturing in our community is the best part of my job, and Southwire is a huge part of our success for this event,” said Webb. “For several years now, Roger Romex (Southwire’s mascot) and the staff at the Southwire plant have been instrumental in Manufacturing Week, as well as another one of our programs called Robotics in Manufacturing Summer camps. Southwire’s generosity with time, talent and treasure is what creates and sustains these programs.”
Southwire’s facility in Lafayette has participated in the Manufacturing Week event for four years and, though the employees wished to see the students in person, the plant was excited to participate virtually.
Jenni Souligne, Southwire Lafayette’s human resources manager, explained that in past years, the students came into the facility and were able to experience in-person tours, touch Southwire products and see the manufacturing process at the facility. However, this year, they utilized technology to create an experience for many more students over the span of multiple days throughout the month. The Roger Romex Webinar registration had more than 1,300 students sign up.
“I’m a firm believer in the phrase, ‘you get what you give,’ and by Giving Back to our communities through educational opportunities, we are able to spread awareness about our organization, while at the same time connecting with and enriching the communities in which we live and work,” said Souligne. “We have a responsibility to do this and, personally and professionally, participating in this event year after year has been very rewarding.”
Daniel Spence, Southwire Lafayette engineering manager, has been the person behind the Roger Romex costume for the past few years. He explained that, for him, this event is extremely important because it showcases manufacturing opportunities that students typically are not aware of and sheds light on what a career in this profession can truly look like.
“My father was actually a machinist, and I remember that my first impression of manufacturing consisted of grumpy men smoking cigarettes in a dirty machine shop,” said Spence. “Southwire is not that in any way, shape or form. Southwire is clean, the people care about their jobs and manufacturing is not what you typically see in the movies. I’ve worked for Southwire in four different states now, and I’m so happy that we have the opportunity to show kids what a career in manufacturing really looks like and potentially draw their interest for the future.”
Dave Metz, Southwire Lafayette’s plant manager, commended the facility for all the effort that went into hosting this event, especially the pivot to virtual. Rather than scheduling the students ahead of time and having them show up, the team utilized technology to pre-record their videos, as well as interact with them live during their allotted days and times.
To view an excerpt of Roger and the Southwire Lafayette team participating in Virtual Manufacturing Month, click here. To find out more about Southwire’s commitment to Giving Back to its communities, click here.
“Southwire’s participation in this event wouldn’t be possible without the incredible team we have here in Lafayette and their commitment to helping give back to this community,” said Metz. “We’ve heard tremendous feedback from the community about our facility as a whole, but especially to the three individuals that are the driving force behind it – Jenni Souligne, Daniel Spence and Shannon McIntire. I’m very proud of them and their efforts year after year.”