TekStarz

Christian Woodside (left), a trainer at Hytrol Conveyors, helps student George Sweat assemble a small conveyor Thursday during a visit to the plant. Sweat said he wants to be an engineer. The visit was part of the annual TekStarz summer manufacturing camp coordinated by Jonesboro Unlimited.

JONESBORO — While many seventh- or eighth-graders have no idea what they want to do when they grow up, some, like Dylan Brown, already have goals.

“I want to go to college and major in architecture,” said Brown, who attends Nettleton schools.

Valley View student Arturo Fuentes is looking into accounting and management, but also knows at his age those aspirations could change.

Brown and Fuentes were among 13 youngsters who participated in TekStarz, a summer manufacturing camp.

“I’ve learned that there’s more to manufacturing than I thought,” Fuentes said Thursday afternoon. “I found there are more opportunities in manufacturing.”

Indeed, the manufacturing sector needs more than just people who assemble parts on an assembly line, said Christy Valentine, manager of academic programs at Hytrol in Jonesboro.

“There is a host of career opportunities for you at places like Hytrol,” Valentine told the students.

She introduced them to engineers, who design the conveyor systems for retail and manufacturing clients throughout the world. They also need teachers to train new hires, marketing and public relations specialists, graphic designers and even nurses to work in the Hytrol clinic, and a host of other disciplines, Valentine said.

Shelle Randal, director of workforce development and existing industry for Jonesboro Unlimited, has coordinated TekStarz since 2013.

“Our goal is to start developing our workforce before these students get to college and beyond,” Randal said. “By making the students aware of the amazing career opportunities in manufacturing and technology, they can better seek out classes and opportunities that nurture that curiosity.”

The camp began Tuesday and concluded Thursday evening.

In addition to Hytrol, the students got some hands-on instruction into the work performed at Post Consumer Products, Nabholz Construction and Best Manufacturing. They also visited Ritter Communications, where they learned about communications technology, and they learned to fabricate parts at the Arkansas State University Newport Workforce Training Center in Jonesboro.

But their first presentation came from Mark Howell of Howell Safety & Training Solutions on workplace safety.

Randel said the companies that partner with Jonesboro Unlimited on TekStarz also benefit.

“You can see those young minds at work saying, ‘I want to do that someday,’” Randel said. “It’s exciting to see the students make those connections between their interests and how those interests could turn into a great career in the future.”