Manufacturing Career Expo Gives Students Insight into Promising Futures
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Manufacturing Career Expo

Manufacturing Career Expo Gives Students Insight into Promising Futures

At the Gaston County Advanced Manufacturing Career Expo on Thursday, March 29, area manufacturing companies will give Gaston County middle and high schoolers the opportunity to learn about the many local career prospects that will be available to them right after high school.

Twenty-two middle and high schools from around Gaston County will provide round-trip transportation to bring approximately 800 students to the expo, which takes place in two buildings on the Dallas campus of Gaston College and at the adjacent Gaston College Center for Advanced Students working on machineManufacturing (CAM). Middle school students will attend from 9 to 11 a.m. and high school students will attend from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Upon arrival to the event venues, the students will see a video presentation about the event, learn who is participating, and what they should glean from the expo. They then will assemble in groups to visit various participating manufacturers’ displays and talk with company representatives who will share information about the companies, the products they manufacture, employment opportunities, and what they look for in candidates for employment. Each group of approximately 22 students will see five companies; every student will receive a packet that includes information about all of the manufacturing companies present at the career expo.

The event is co-sponsored by the partners in WSAT, the Workforce Solutions Action Team consisting of Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, Gaston Regional Chamber, Gaston County Economic Development Commission, Gaston County Workforce Development Board, Career Climb, NCWorks Career Center, and a number of local businesses in Gaston County.

“Gaston County and, more specifically, Gaston County EDC’s (Economic Development Commission) role is as an active partner in workforce development,” said Malissa Gordon, Existing Industry Manager at the EDC. “Our role within the county is to attract and retain desirable businesses and employers to continue improving and diversifying economic opportunities in Gaston County. We are a proactive leader in the transformation of the current economic environment in Gaston County, and we partner with all of our agencies and institutions throughout the county to offer opportunities for our citizens. Events such as this Career Expo give students – our future workers – insight into advanced manufacturing careers available right here in the county.”

Steve D’Avria, President and CEO of the Gaston Regional Chamber, is enthusiastic about the collaboration among the sponsors and participants and the interaction they will have with the students. “Through the Career Expo, our chamber members can be proactive in engaging with the future of our regional workforce,” he said. “The manufacturers will be introducing themselves, telling the students what they do, and how the students can meet the companies’ needs. I grew up in West Virginia, close to companies like DuPont and General Electric, and I was not made aware of opportunities that may have been available there. This event will let students see that they can have a promising future right in their home town—and, for some of them, that future could begin as early as this summer.”

Among the approximately 20 participating companies are American & Efird (A&E), Dixon Quick Coupling, Firestone Textiles Company, Gentry Plastics, Georgia Pacific, GSM Services, Hunter Douglas, LanXess, Mann+Hummel, Pharr Yarns, Stabilus, and Tosaf USA.

Mann+Hummel has participated in previous Career Expos, and Scott Carter, the company’s HR Manager, is eager to return for this year’s event. “It’s important for Mann+Hummel to tell its story and share our opportunities with an audience who may not know what careers exist for them locally,” he said. “Our focus this year is to educate students on local manufacturing and skilled trade opportunities. Additionally, we plan to share operational support opportunities in Engineering, Finance, HR, and Safety.”

Carter considers the Career Expo to be equally beneficial for the participating companies. “It’s important for employers to share with the next generation of employees that we have many different opportunities for them not only to work, but also to grow and develop with the support of their employer.” He continued, “An event such as this is a great opportunity to share our message with a large group and the open forum allows not only for a formal presentation but also for one-on-one discussions.”

Susan Farmer, Human Resources Generalist with Pharr Yarns, agrees with Carter. “The Career Expo is an excellent way for us to educate our students about all the careers in manufacturing available today in Gaston County,” she said. “Many of our positions are entry level with no college education required. We do, however, have some technical or managerial positions that would require further education from either work experience, community college – like Gaston College – or a university. It’s important for students to know about Pharr and our opportunities so that they will be equipped with information to help them decide on a path after high school.”

The Career Expo offers many benefits to the students who attend. “Students have an opportunity to use the information brought to them in this forum to help decide on a pathway of curriculum in order to take the most beneficial classes pertaining to their interest,” Farmer said. “The students need to know about the training we offer as well as the educational tuition assistance available for related studies. Knowledge is power. The more knowledge the students are equipped with, the more powerful they become.”

Pharr Yarns has participated in past expos and appreciates the Career Expo as a way to showcase its history and on-going contributions to the region. “At this stage of the students’ lives, we are planting seeds,” said Farmer. “We may not see immediate results in terms of new hires today, but we expect to reap from their growth in the future. Pharr is a family-owned company that began in 1939 and has been successful by practicing these strong core values: Family, Innovative, Responsive, Strong Relationships, and Trustworthy. We want these students to know that Pharr has a great future with many opportunities available, and I can’t think of a better way than the Career Expo to spread the news.”

Daniel Vasquez Ramos attended the career expos as a student in 2014, 2015, and 2016. He graduated from Stuart W. Cramer High School in 2017 and he joined American & Efird in June of that year. After speaking with representatives from A&E, he was impressed that the company offered opportunities that appealed to him, including in A/C and electrical engineering. He approached A&E after graduation and expressed an interest in working there. He has held various jobs and his current position as Drug Room Personnel involves working with the dye machines and measuring out the chemicals required for specific batches.

“I am most interested in learning the basics of electrical engineering and mechanics,” said Ramos, “and I hope to one day enter an apprenticeship at A&E.” He intends to work for a few years before studying to become an Electrical Engineer, and then he will be eager to secure a position that will grow into a rewarding career.

Jorge Mosqueda, Shift Supervisor at A&E, also saw that the company offered career potential. He started as an unloader, worked as a machine operator, and eventually rose to a supervisory position. “Not everyone must go to a four-year college to strive and survive in a career,” he said. “I am proof that you can succeed and grow within a company.”

“So many opportunities are available here,” said David Polson, Production Department Manager at A&E. “There is not just physical work, there are many technical positions as well. It’s more than just a job – it’s the chance to learn in lots of different areas.”

For Gaston College, the Advanced Manufacturing Career Expo offers an excellent platform to tell middle and high school students about the many educational paths that are available to them through the College. In addition to co-sponsoring and hosting the event, Gaston College will share information about its academic offerings and about its Apprenticeship 321 program, through which students receive job-specific training and a cost-free education from Gaston College while earning a salary from local employers who are partners in the apprenticeship program.

The event is a way for Gaston County Schools to introduce students to the many options they can consider after high school graduation. “The Gaston County Advanced Manufacturing Career Expo is important,” said Brett Buchanan, CTE (Career and Technical Education) Director for Gaston County Schools, “because it allows students to become aware of opportunities that are available to them in the Gaston County community. Students may not realize what is out there. The expo lets them see where in the real world they can use the skills they are learning through their education, and it acquaints them with career prospects that are waiting for them when they graduate.”

Buchanan, who is the liaison between Gaston County Schools and the companies participating in the Career Expo, believes the Career Expo is very valuable to the participating manufacturers, too. “Being part of the expo is a long-term investment for these companies,” he said. “The schools hold their future and the expo introduces them to potential employees who will be starting their careers when they finish school.”

For more information about the event, contact Brett Buchanan at or 704-861-2496.

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