2016-10-14 / Business

Made in Simi Valley

Teens learn about local manufacturing
By Michael Aushenker

WINDOW INTO MANUFACTURING—Above, Thousand Oaks High School students listen to Tom Williams, production manager at Milgard Manufacturing, as he leads a tour of the company’s window and door manufacturing plant in Simi Valley. The students visited the factory as part of Ventura County Manufacturing Week.MICHAEL COONS/Acorn NewspapersWINDOW INTO MANUFACTURING—Above, Thousand Oaks High School students listen to Tom Williams, production manager at Milgard Manufacturing, as he leads a tour of the company’s window and door manufacturing plant in Simi Valley. The students visited the factory as part of Ventura County Manufacturing Week.MICHAEL COONS/Acorn NewspapersA group of Rio Mesa High School students on a visit to Milgard Manufacturing last Friday got an up-close look at hundreds at work making doors and windows.

The Oct. 7 visit was part of the fourth annual Ventura County Manufacturing Week, during which more than 300 local highschoolers visited local factories to learn about the skills needed for various careers. Manufacturing Roundtable of Ventura County, in partnership with the Ventura County Office of Education and Workforce Development Board of Ventura County, sponsors the program.

Uniting for the kids

Manufacturing Week, which took place Oct. 3 to 7, represents the nexus of the county, schools and businesses uniting with the future in mind.

Last week’s tour marks the third consecutive year that Milgard, makers of aluminum, wood, vinyl and fiberglass doors and windows, has welcomed the students. Simi’s Dynamic Automation, Applied Powdercoat in Camarillo and Haas Automation in Oxnard were among the other businesses who opened their doors. Participating high schools included Camarillo’s ACE Charter, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Newbury Park, as well as Anacapa Middle School and Mesa Union School.

Above, T.O. students get an up-close look at Milgard’s water jet cutting machine. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Above, T.O. students get an up-close look at Milgard’s water jet cutting machine. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers “Discovering the high-tech sophistication of modern manufacturing and the wide range of jobs available can open new doors to the relevance of educational experiences and rewarding career options,” Cheryl Moore, executive director of the Workforce Development Board, said in an email about the weeklong event.

According to the National Association of Manufacturing, one manufacturing job creates 2.9 jobs in other sectors. However, more than 600,000 manufacturing positions are unfilled across America. The association estimates that 10 million new skilled workers will be needed by 2020, as 77 percent of skilled baby boomers will exit the industry by 2030.

Milgard’s history

William Trude, director of MERIT (Manufacturing, Engineering, Robotics, Industry, Technology) Academy at Rio Mesa High, brought 22 sophomores to Milgard’s Simi Valley plant Oct. 7, where human resources manager Alex Rivera began the midday tour with a presentation about the company and its history.

Maurice Milgard Jr. and his son, Gary, founded Milgard Glass Company in 1958 out of a small Tacoma, Wash., building. Gary’s brother, Jim, joined in 1961 and Milgard then diversified into aluminum windows. In 1962, Gary left to start Milgard Manufacturing, a fabricator of aluminum windows, sliding doors and, later, vinyl and fiberglass products.

In 2001, Masco Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of home products, acquired Milgard. In addition to Simi, Milgard has operations in Sacramento and Temecula; Tacoma, Wash.; Denver, Colo.; Grand Prairie, Texas; and Portland, Ore.

Hitting the floor running

Production manager Tom Williams, an employee of 16 years who led one of the two simultaneous tours last Friday, also offered his insights to students, while general manager Nate Freeman discussed the opportunities and advantages of working on the factory floor.

Both attested to job longevity at the plant. Freeman admitted to the Rio Mesa group, which had also visited Applied Powdercoat and Haas Automation on Oct. 3 and 4, that he had no career direction through college.

“I had no clue on what I wanted to do,” he told the students.

At a college job fair, a glass company approached Freeman, a senior then, with an opportunity. The next thing he knew, he was living in Fresno and working in manufacturing. Four years later, Milgard hired Freeman. He’s been with the company 11 years.

Rivera told students that Milgard’s Simi plant employs 400 people, including 250 on the assembly line. When a student asked Rivera how much employees earn, the HR manager said workers starting around $11 an hour can reach an annual salary of $60,000, plus bonuses.

“You can actually make a lot of money,” Freeman told students. “It is a ton of fun and you are able to use your brain. It is never boring.”

The takeaway

Rivera and Williams led the 10th-graders across Milgard’s 225,000-square-foot production/ warehouse area, where the teens learned about the company’s various departments and watched workers conform glass and wood into custom shapes and sizes.

Aspiring engineer Olga Hernandez, 15, said she found the visit eye-opening.

“It was pretty interesting to see how they manufactured the windows,” she said. “It was cool to see the perspectives, the job opportunities, how many branches.”

“(Before) I didn’t think about how much it takes to make windows,” said Gabriel Ibara, 15. “It was really hot in there.”

Trude said visits to manufacturing plants not only introduce his pupils to potential professional paths, but make them privy to some basic concepts.

“The students and many teachers have no idea what manufacturing is. Everything we touch is made and nobody knows how they’re made.”

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