Thirty Allendale High School students attended their yearly Star Crane Olympics event during Manufacturing Week, Sept. 29 through Oct. 5. The company has been hosting the event in conjunction with local schools and organizations such as the Allendale Chamber of Commerce and West Michigan Works for the last four years, said business developer at Star Crane and Hoist Nathan Derks.
“We worked with Ottawa Intermediate School District (Tech Center) directly, both (in) 2016 and 2018,” Derks said. “OISD also helped coordinate Coopersville High School in 2017, then most recently, Allendale High School. The focus of it is really the students’ involvement in skilled trades.”
Luchies said Star Crane and Hoist hopes that introducing students to manufacturing and other skilled trades jobs early on will create more skilled trades workers in the future.
“There is currently a lack of people out there,” Luchies said. “It’s very difficult to find people in Allendale, in Grand Rapids, in the state of Michigan, and even within the region. We need to develop that, so as part of our community involvement, we work with some kids to try to see what we can do.”
During the hour-and-a-half-long event, students had the chance to learn about and operate a crane under the supervision of an experienced service manager, Luchies said. While only five students got to guide the crane through the obstacle course, Luchies said everyone was involved in the activities.
“You can participate by doing it visually, because it’s not like you’re on an iPad doing a logistics game, right?” Luchies said. “They participated by really cheering those kids along and encouraging them. It almost brought tears to your eyes.”
Stephanie Beckhorn, director of workforce development with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said that the Star Crane Olympics was one of 200 Manufacturing Week events across the state of Michigan.
Beckhorn said that providing opportunities to get hands-on experience before they graduate high school is one way the department hopes to increase the skilled labor workforce once students graduate from high school.
“We don’t want students to be career exploring at the post-secondary level, (but) we want them to have hands-on experience and to have an understanding of the jobs that are available in your community,” Beckhorn said.
Both Derks and Luchies said that Grand Valley State University is a unique aspect of the community that has a lot to offer to businesses like theirs in the Allendale area.
“It’s great because they are are a wonderful opportunity that we can draw from,” Luchies said. “There are a lot of college positions that are here as well as skilled trades.”