EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- An uptick in U.S. manufacturing has some local employers optimistic about the future and they're already recruiting the next generation of their workforce.
East Peoria High School student Seth Kent is considering that career path. At 16, he's just getting behind the wheel, but thinks he'd like to steer himself toward a career driving a big rig for a major manufacturing firm.
"I have a family member whose in trucking," said Kent. "It's interesting because you get to travel to different parts of the country."
The road Kent's classmates take will depend upon their interests. On Friday, they attended Manufacturing in the USA Career Day, organized by the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, Caterpillar and several Cat suppliers. Students were introduced to more than 30 different manufacturing related fields.
"Its really important to us to tell the students about the opportunities in manufacturing," said Caterpillar Group President Steve Wunning. "Manufacturing is really going through a renaissance."
In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports the United States added 136,000 manufacturing jobs last year alone. And that number is expected to more than double this year with the projected addition of another 330,000 manufacturing jobs.
Some of the students will be part of that next generation of manufacturing, which includes everything from working on the assembly line, to operating heavy equipment, to environmental health and safety.
"It's a growing field," explained Justin Ganschow, an environmental health and safety specialist for Caterpillar. "We use more and more chemicals all of the time in our processes and in our homes. The environmental health and safety field is just going to continue to grow."
What sparks East Peoria senior Michael Ferro's interest is working with electricity.
"I like the electrician's table right here behind me," said Ferro. "I do stuff like this at my house and learning more about it would be awesome."
Senior Kelsey Hansen is headed to college this fall. She's hoping the exposure to different careers in manufacturing will help her settle on a major.
"Its really confusing. You're graduating, you're nervous about graduation, you're nervous because you're not coming back to high school and you don't know what you want to do. Its scary," said Hansen.
Friday's event may help students like Kelsey Hansen manufacture some ideas about their future.