by Lara Copeland, contributing editor
Plastics Business

“I had no idea manufacturing was this cool.”

“I had no idea how clean the factory was going to be.”

“I had no idea of the potential job opportunities within manufacturing.”

“I had no idea you use that kind of automation in manufacturing.”

These are all remarks left on just a few of the many surveys filled out by teachers and college or high school students following their experiences with Crescent Industries, New Freedom, Pennsylvania, on Manufacturing Day this year. For Kevin Allison, vice president of marketing at Crescent, these comments confirmed that the company achieved what it set out to accomplish with this event. “Our goal was to get the message out and educate the future generation in regard to what manufacturing is about,” he said. “We wanted to provide a first-hand glimpse of the many job opportunities available in manufacturing.”

“Inspiring future manufacturers,” as Crescent’s tagline for the event stated, is exactly what the company set out to do. Acknowledging the lack of discussion surrounding manufacturing, especially this past decade, Allison said it is something that students just aren’t familiar with. “They have the impression that manufacturing is a dark and dirty place, that it requires a lot of brute strength and that it’s a last-ditch effort for the uneducated,” he explained. To counteract this misperception, Crescent set up a week’s worth of activities to make sure students saw that manufacturing isn’t a “dark dungeon,” and that it does require more than just brute strength.

Students and teachers from eight high schools and two colleges were invited to tour Crescent facilities for the weeklong event. “There is a lot of talent that is required to make a manufacturing facility tick on all cylinders, and we tried to make sure that we displayed all those things throughout the week,” Allison said.

VPM Kevin Allison
Vice President of Marketing Kevin Allison (bottom photo) worked with eight high schools and two colleges to offer tours. Students and teachers rotated through stations that provided a glimpse into “a day in the life” of several manufacturing roles.

Crescent wanted to be sure faculty and students learned about the day in the life of a mold design engineer, a journeyman moldmaker, an apprentice moldmaker, a process engineer, a quality engineer and an automation engineer. “We wanted them to see, from the customer’s concept to full rate production, the steps that we take to manufacture a product – everything we do from the first time we talk to the customer through getting the product manufactured and ready for full production.” Over the course of two hours, Crescent showed students each station throughout its plant.

According to Allison, “the biggest thing we did was tell our story – how we each got involved with manufacturing and the path we took to get to where we are today.” For example, Allison introduced himself to the visitors and briefly explained that he graduated from Susquehannock High School in 1991 and was certain that he was not cut out for college. He enjoyed shop classes in high school and working with his hands, and in 1992 an opportunity became available to join the Crescent team in the warehouse. He accepted the offer and saw this as an opportunity to get his foot in the door.

Over the course of the next 12 years, Allison was able to move into various job positions – inventory controller, shipping coordinator, production planner and customer service – where he gained valuable on-the-job training, mentoring and a broader understanding about manufacturing. Then, in 2004, he moved into a business development manager role, overseeing sales, marketing and customer service functions. Most recently, he became vice president of marketing, where he now focuses on promoting strategic growth, profitability and talent acquisition at Crescent. Last month he celebrated 26 years of employment at Crescent Industries. “It has been a great career so far, and I’m looking forward to new opportunities at Crescent,” he said.

In addition to Allison, nine other employees, some of whom took paths very different from his own, spoke to students about how they ended up where they are. “We wanted to be sure they knew that they can have a really great career in manufacturing and that everybody’s path is different,” he continued. “In sharing our stories, we hoped that they would see the potential career opportunities in manufacturing – that it requires brain power, peer collaboration, staying current with training and keeping up to date with new technology. Our goal in this event is to bring awareness about manufacturing and to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.”

Though Crescent hosted 160 students in addition to 20 teachers at its event, parents were not a part of the tour. Allison believes a shift is starting to occur in thinking that college is the only option following high school. “There’s nothing wrong with college,” he said, “but there are people who are meant to do something else.” Crescent wants everyone to know, whether they’re college-bound or not, that manufacturing is a viable option for a successful career.

While this event was strictly open to the schools, Allison said Crescent did want to involve parents. Each student was provided with a flash pack, which included infographics for each of the six job positions highlighted on the tour, complete with job descriptions. Students also had access to a Crescent Overview video to share with their parents. “We wanted to make it easy for the kids to engage their parents if they had an interest in pursuing this career,” he continued. “We wanted them to take this information home and get plugged in with Mom and Dad.”

In addition to hosting the schools, Crescent also welcomed a guest speaker, a local representative who happened to graduate from one of the nearby schools. She addressed the audience and told them about the multiple opportunities in manufacturing. “It was exciting to get that kind of exposure because it really helped underscore the importance of this event and the importance to bringing awareness to the students,” Allison said.

While the event itself was spread over an entire week, Allison mentioned he began orchestrating the project when school started this year. “It really didn’t take a whole lot to convince the high schools to come once I connected with the right people,” he explained. “They saw value in the details of our event and most signed up quickly.” He did struggle some in convincing colleges to attend, but as he quickly learned, it’s simply because they already had their curriculum set for the year.

“As we look ahead for Manufacturing Day 2019, I have decided to approach the colleges at the end of this school year, so they can start to consider this event and incorporate it into their curriculum for the next school year.” Allison also mentioned that the plan next year will allow for more time during tours to interact with students, and he is hopeful that the same schools will return and even more from the district will be able to participate.

Crescent Industries has participated in Manufacturing Day events before, but Allison said this is the first time the company has participated to this extent. “It’s just one of those things where partnering with our local schools and educating the public can make a huge difference, and we feel we’ve done our part to help the process,” he said. The team at Crescent, like many manufacturers throughout the country, feels strongly about bringing awareness to future manufacturers. “Collectively, we all want to make sure to do our part to inspire future manufacturers and promote our industry,” Allison said. “It took a lot of man hours and orchestrating on our part, but we felt the time was well spent.”