College signing days are widely celebrated at high schools across the country to congratulate student athletes, so why not celebrate students who are headed down a different but equally exciting path?
On Thursday, May 9, 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 to launch their future careers.
Instead of football helmets, Ashton Zalke and Dan Gonzalez from Woodstock High School and Cade Darling from Woodstock North High School will don hard hats to learn about industrial maintenance and machining.
According to U.S. News and World Report, U.S. manufacturing needs nearly 3.5 million manufacturing workers by 2025, but it's projected that 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled due to a proficiency gap. In 2017, the average manufacturing worker in the U.S. earned more than $27 per hour.
Recognizing that gap, manufacturers have been coming to local high schools and establishing partnerships like the one Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 has with Scot Forge.
Tony Velotta, organizational development leader for Scot Forge, said his company has had a long relationship with Steve Thompson, division chairman for Industrial Technology among other disciplines, and that 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 onsite 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.
Steve Thompson, chairman of the Industrial Technology Department at Woodstock High School shakes hands with Tony Velotta, organizational development leader at Scot Forge.