Manufacturing Month to Highlight Career Options Beyond K12 to College

Manufacturing Month to Highlight Career Options Beyond K12 to College Main Photo

17 Sep 2021


“Why be saddled with massive student debt when you can gain experience working and then go to college for free?” That’s the question Derek Dauel, Development Coordinator for York County Development Corporation is asking high school students, teachers and counselors. With many York County manufacturing companies willing to pay for college, he is presenting an alternative to the K12 to college mindset. “Instead of going to college immediately, high school graduates can begin working for a York County manufacturer, gain tangible skills and work experience, earn a solid wage, and then make an educated decision about what they want to do next.” When they reach this point, many employers will pay for college. 

York High School graduate, Ryan Hulse, is one such example. He started working for Collins doing Non-Destructive Testing Technician Level 2 and is now their Global Trade Site Lead & Customs and Imports Specialist, working in an office, instead of on the floor. “Working at Collins Aerospace has given me a great background in aerospace manufacturing as well as the opportunity to grow my career and further myself in the aerospace manufacturing industry,” said Ryan. Employees need to prove that they are a hard worker, dedicated to the company and to doing a good job. If they show these skills the company will help to further career goals, even if that means pursuing a different field altogether. For example, manufacturing companies will pay for employees to earn degrees in accounting, marketing, project management, etc. so they can transition into managerial positions or work in the office.

“A common misconception is that if a graduate starts working for a manufacturing company, they will always be on the floor. That’s not what we’re seeing. Our manufacturers do a good job of retaining people by finding positions that allow for them to follow their interests. At Truck Center Companies, for example, people may start at the entry level and then train to become a mechanic or transfer to another department based on the type of work they find interesting,” said Derek. “After all, if you want to go into accounting, why not be an accountant at a company where you already have established relationships, have built up vacation time, and know what to expect. That, and they will likely pay for college.”

Derek also points out that there are significant long-term opportunities in manufacturing. With manufacturing being Nebraska’s #1 industry, there are abundant opportunities for advancement. With baby boomers retiring, more and more managerial positions will be opening up - positions that can be filled by newer workers coming in. “Now is an exciting time to start working for a manufacturing company because if you do a good job, there’s a good chance you’ll have the opportunity to advance quickly,” he said. Brian Houtwed, the plant manager for Collins, is a prime example of this type of upward mobility. He started his career as an entry level machinist in 1997 working on the floor, steadily advanced and since November of 2020 now oversees the entire operation in York, NE.

York ManufacturingIn addition to upward mobility, high school graduates gain additional benefits by working for local manufacturing companies. This includes steady work, good pay and a level of certainty about their future. “When you go to college, you graduate with student debt without the guarantee of a job at the end of it. When you start working for a York County manufacturer, you have a job that allows for you to gain financial independence and, if they send you to college, you have a guaranteed job upon graduation without massive student debt. It’s a safer bet that allows you to start your life faster,” said Derek. 

Getting this message across to high school students and educators requires thoughtful action and support from both the education and manufacturing communities. York County Development Corporation is bringing them together during Manufacturing Month in October. Starting on October 1st, Derek Dauel, YCDC Development Coordinator will be completing school tours to speak with administrators and counselors about the opportunities in the manufacturing sector and what those jobs look like. Later in October, companies like Cornerstone Building Brands will be speaking to the Jobs for America’s Graduates program students about specific career opportunities. And there’s a lot of them. “Our manufacturers have told me that if there are 20 people who walked in their door with experience they would hire them immediately,” said Derek.

Anyone interested in working for a York County manufacturer is encouraged to view the YCDC jobs directory or conduct a search at NEWorks. Manufacturing companies who would like to collaborate with YCDC are encouraged to contact Derek Dauel by emailing

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