College signing days are celebrated at high schools across the country to congratulate student-athletes who choose the next step in their careers.
On Thursday, three industrial technology students from Woodstock and Woodstock North high schools signed up to participate in a paid summer internship program at Scot Forge in Spring Grove.
Instead of football helmets, Woodstock High School’s Ashton Zalke and Dan Gonzalez and Woodstock North’s Cade Darling will don hard hats to learn about industrial maintenance and machining.
According to U.S. News and World Report, U.S. manufacturing needs about 3.5 million manufacturing workers by 2025, but it is projected that 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled because of a proficiency gap. In 2017, the average manufacturing employee in the U.S. earned more than $27 an hour.
Recognizing that gap, manufacturers have been visiting local high schools and establishing partnerships, such as the one Woodstock School District 200 has with Scot Forge.
Tony Velotta, organizational development leader at Scot Forge, said his company has had a long relationship with Steve Thompson, the division chairman for District 200’s industrial technology department, among other disciplines, and Scot Forge appreciates the Woodstock programs.
“I like that they’re promoting kids into careers with an alternative to a four-year degree,” Velotta said. “I’m very impressed with the quality of the kids. I’m impressed with their drive and initiative.”
Thompson said Scot Forge is a particularly valuable educational partner because developing employees is a big part of what they do. They have on-site certification programs in addition to two- and four-year degree programs for their employees in a variety of careers.
Thompson said the three new students will bring the total to six Woodstock students who are working for Scot Forge, although the more-involved partnership is new this year.
“They’ve decided to implement this farm team program – much like the Kane County Cougars are a farm team in Major League Baseball,” Thompson said. “The kids are getting offered a real career path.”
Scot Forge has been in business for more than a century, forging a vast array of products from wheels on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover to torpedo tubes for nuclear submarines. In addition to the Spring Grove plant, there are plants in Franklin Park and Clinton, Wisconsin.