MARENGO – About 30 students from across Illinois gathered at UniCarriers facility in Marengo on Saturday morning to explore the world of manufacturing and engineering technology.
The students are all a part of U.S Rep. Randy Hultgren’s 14th Congressional District STEM Scholars program. The program is in its second year and allows high schoolers in the 14th District to connect with like minded students and leaders in the field. The group takes trips to various workplaces that rely on science, technology, engineering and math.
“In Illinois, often our biggest export is some of our brightest students moving elsewhere,” Hultgren said. “We want them here. We want them to see that there are some amazing career opportunities right here in Illinois, whether its at our national laboratories or places like UniCarriers, where they can have a career, do incredibly well and make some of the best things in the world.”
Headquartered in Marengo with manufacturing operations that cover more than half a million square feet, UniCarrier has a worldwide presence.
The company manufactures forklifts that target numerous industries such as warehousing, manufacturing, recycling, lumber and brickyards, shipping and receiving and trailer loading and unloading.
Students were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the operation Saturday, and parents were able to find out more about the company and what future careers could exist for their children as well. Many parents said they got their kids involved in the program because it is a rare opportunity to dig deeper into STEM education.
“We came from Minnesota to [Illinois] and my daughter was in a STEM school there,” said Marci Kloberdanz of Joliet. “The kinds of schools that offer that here are few and far between.”
Manufacturing in Illinois accounts for 12.7 percent of total state output, according to the latest statistics from the National Association of Manufacturers.
McHenry County’s manufacturing sector employs 13 percent of the county workforce, according to the McHenry County Economic Development Corp.
About 15 percent of UniCarrier’s workforce at the Marengo facility is new graduates, human resources director Christy Willis said.
One of the aims of the STEM scholars program is to get students to broaden their horizons when it comes to STEM careers and that is one thing Shayne Hare of Sugar Grove said was important to him. His 18-year-old is in the program.
“With all the technology these kids have now, you think their world would be opened up,” he said. “But it’s not. Its very narrow because they experience everything through a screen at home. A program like this gets them out and broadens how they view it.”
If you or your teen are interested in the program visit hultgren.house.gov/serving-you/stem-scholars or call Susan Russell at 630- 584-2734. An application process is required.