At the annual Community Career+Education Forum, young science-minded students can find out how their love of robotics can lead to an exciting job once they get older.

They can discover the chemistry and physics behind some of the area’s most successful manufacturers. For students who are not sure whether a four-year college or technical school is a better fit for them, the forum is a way to explore their options.

“Students just have a tremendous amount of excitement when they come through the doors. To see them get to interact with industry partners and talk to these colleges and universities, you can see that they are really excited about their education and what’s to come,” said Juliana Eckel, event planner at Endress+Hauser.

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 28, area middle school students and educators can explore the career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math during Endress+Hauser’s annual community forum.

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The event was created to give seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, as well as their parents, a glimpse at the diverse types of careers currently available in advanced manufacturing. The hope is also to keep the brightest and most talented students here in Johnson County.

“Every time I see a student come through our glass doors, that’s one more family that is getting ready to have a lot more information than they did,” said Brandyn Ferguson, vice president of human resources for Endress+Hauser. “They’re going to be armed with this information, and they’re going to feel empowered.”

The event was founded in 2014 as a way to help schools, students and their families learn what skills employers are looking for in their workers, Ferguson said.

Endress+Hauser partnered with Central Nine Career Center and Aspire Johnson County to create the career forum. Originally, it was envisioned as a way to open up its newly built customer center to the community.

But it grew into a way to not only open their building to people, but to help foster interest in science and technology in the county, Ferguson said.

“It very quickly became less and less about Endress+Hauser’s new building and us wanting to pay for this big event, and became more of a clearinghouse where all of these different industrial-focused companies wanted to take part,” he said.

Hundreds of students and parents now take part in the event, Ferguson said. The forum will feature dozens of local manufacturers offering information and demonstrations of how science plays into their business.

Major advanced manufacturers such as Cummins, NSK and Caterpillar will all be present to demonstrate what they do and the jobs available to all types of students.

But the forum will also feature information from businesses, such as Johnson Heating & Cooling and Indiana American Water, who rely on workers with STEM skills.

“We’d like to have applicant pools or streams where kids know about what these companies do. Maybe they take a job right out of high school, or after a little bit of technical education,” Ferguson said. “Then, for those who are more on that path to a technical four-year degree, they at least knew we’re here. They don’t have to move out of town or out of state to get a good job.”

Participants can meet with college representatives to talk about degree and certification programs. Representatives from Central Nine Career Center will be on hand to discuss their class offerings. Organizations such as the Johnson County Public Library and Greenwood Public Library will have displays getting teens excited about their STEM programming.

From Endress+Hauser’s perspective, the forum helps develop future applicants and contributors for its workforce, Ferguson said.

“We knew that by imprinting on the students that come through, and on mom and dad, that advanced manufacturing or technical jobs in general can be a viable option. For some, maybe it rises to option A,” he said. “They can go from table to table, and just hear what they have to say.”

New this year has been an added emphasis on inviting teachers, guidance counselors and other educators to the forum, to help them understand the varied careers available in manufacturing, science and technology.

“Guidance counselors all want to know the same thing: What does real business and real industry need, and what real information can they give one-on-one to students who come to their offices,” Ferguson said. “All of their stuff is dated.”

On top of the STEM classrooms grants that Endress+Hauser normally offers each year, the company is expanding the giving program based on educators who get more fully involved in the forum. They will be given a “passport,” and at the different demonstrations and information booths, they can get it stamped.

After they’ve gotten a certain number of stamps, they can turn it in to be eligible for additional grants.

“We were thinking that we don’t really need to incentivize kids to come here. We get about 500 kids and moms and dads every year,” Ferguson said. “But what we really wanted to do better than ever was to attract teachers and guidance counselors.”

The forum always generates a lot of immediate excitement, among the participating students and families, as well as with Endress+Hauser employees who volunteer the night of the event.

But what is truly amazing is the impact that this gathering could have years down the road, Ferguson said.

“Here at Endress+Hauser, we don’t feel like it’s hard to fill jobs, because we have so many different cool recruiting efforts going on. We’re not losing in the war on talent,” he said. “But we know a lot of our fellow industry and business in general is hurting, and this is one way to make a dent in that.”

At a glance

Community Career+Education Forum

What: A gathering for students and families to learn more about manufacturing and industry, higher education and career training.

Who: Hosted by Endress+Hauser, in partnership with Central Nine Career Center and Aspire Johnson County.

Where: Endress+Hauser, 2355 Endress Place, Greenwood

When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 28

Who can take part: Students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades, their parents, STEM teachers, school administrators and guidance counselors.

What will be featured:

  • Career, education and information booths
  • Factory tours (no open toed shoes, please)
  • Other local manufacturing booths
  • Meet college representatives and learn about degree and certification programs
  • Learn about Central Nine Career Center
  • Free food, drinks and cookies
  • Contest – Test your technical know-how
  • Prize challenges
  • Awesome door prizes
  • Social media challenges

How to sign up: RSVP by Sept. 25 at www.surveymonkey.com/r/CCEF2017

For more information: Contact Holly Wegeng at holly.wegeng@us.endress.com

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.