7th graders across Southeast Colorado traveled to La Junta the week of January 22 to tour Oliver Manufacturing’s 210,000 sq ft facility.
Students traveled from local communities La Junta, Las Animas, Swink, Rocky Ford, Wiley and Cheraw. They attended tours from Jan. 23 to the 25. The students visited La Junta’s industrial park and stopped by Oliver Manufacturing. In addition, they toured DeBourgh Manufacturing Co. The field trips give students exposure to manufacturing facilities and the careers they provide. The kids toured the entire factory and main offices. They saw how Team Oliver assembles its machines and what office life is like for HR, Accounting, Marketing and Sales.
Kris Sudovich, welder, says he sees the school tours as a way to give back to the Arkansas Valley community. “It’s a great educational opportunity, and it shows kids that they don’t necessarily need to move to the big city to get a good job in manufacturing. It’s a way to give back to the local economy.”
The grade school tours are a great way to demonstrate to students the career opportunities that rural Southeast Colorado has to offer. The tours are conducted in coordination with the Southeast Colorado Manufacturing Partnership, which has provided tours to approximately 850 students annually since 2015.
Area Leadsman Patrick Lathrum believes the tours are vital to combating the stigma attached to careers in welding, assembly and other common factory careers. “In the past,” says Lathrum, “people used to think of welding as an ‘If you had to’ job. I think the tours show that there’s opportunity in these factory jobs. You can make a living and support your family as a welder. It’s not just a job, it can be a career.”
Overall, Oliver’s facility seemed to impress most of the 7th graders. As Lathrum, Sutovich or another employee directed each tour, they stopped at each department to hear about relevant careers. Of course, no tour of Oliver would be complete without exploring President Brian Burney’s office. And each student even had the chance for exactly that! Team Oliver cares a lot about its community and the future of its workforce. And we’re always open to giving visitors a tour.