Shaping the Next Generation of Manufacturers: Crown Partners with Local Schools in Batesville, Mississippi
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
At some point in their lives, all children are asked this question. With the goal of inspiring the future workforce to pursue fulfilling careers in manufacturing, Crown has started its first local initiative for student outreach in Batesville, Mississippi, a small town outside of Oxford where we operate one of our 21 North American beverage can plants. Led by local Human Resources Manager Garry Morrow, we are working with two schools to aid students’ education and teach them about the rich career potential found in industrial fields.
Morrow initially reached out to the Batesville schools to foster engagement between local students and our nearby plant, seeing an opportunity to make a positive impact on K-12 students in his area. Spanning from elementary to high school students, the program aims to prepare students for successful futures, equipping them with real-world applications of subjects they are studying and exposing them to the possibilities of a technical career. The initiative also works to foster the development of practical and “soft manufacturing” skills. By engaging students during elementary school and capturing their attention in high school as career choices loom nearer, we hope to encourage college attendance and build a pipeline to a new generation of graduates with the technical talent and tools necessary for careers in advanced manufacturing operations.
Currently, the local program consists of classroom visits, where Morrow sheds light on our operations, and plant visits, where students can see the impact of this work firsthand. Walking students through our Batesville beverage can plant allows them to observe the entire manufacturing process up close. According to Morrow, these tours allow students to “hear the noise, smell the plant, watch how things are made and ask questions of the plant engineers.”
For fifth-graders, we demonstrate the manufacturing of a piggy bank can, communicating the importance of math in this process and encouraging interest in STEM subjects. For middle school students, we work with teachers to emphasize critical thinking and communication skills. Being in the plant also offers the chance to see robotics in action—a hit with the junior-high age group. High school students—the newest group in our program—are walked all the way through the plant, observing the stage in which aluminum is pressed into sheet form. This glimpse of metal in action reinforces studies about the substrate that is taking place simultaneously in the classroom.
Beyond providing a behind-the-scenes look, these types of interactions can help to correct misconceptions students may have that industrial jobs are largely low-tech, outdated or limited as a career path. Programs like ours aim to instill a deeper understanding of manufacturing and reveal not only how advanced and innovative many plants truly are but also the diverse roles and ample upward mobility available with companies like Crown.
While Morrow cannot predict how many students will choose the manufacturing path come graduation, he feels the program is beneficial for introducing children to different industries and passions and aims to visit the two Batesville high schools in particular at least 20 times annually. The program is gaining momentum and starting to garner excitement throughout the local community and within Crown. We already provide full-time internship and co-op positions in our global Corporate, Technologies and Manufacturing divisions to undergraduate and graduate students, but down the road, this local mission could be used as a framework for larger-scale, more formal student outreach initiatives around the country.
For now, Morrow is pleased with the positive feedback he has received from the students, who demonstrate active excitement and engagement in the Batesville plant, and from teachers, who say their students can’t stop talking about the visits.
“This is one of the most important things I could be doing in my role,” said Morrow. “The joy is in hearing their questions and seeing their reactions to activities in the plant. We open up a whole new world for these students.”