Manufacturer Welcomes 5th Graders – The Workforce of Tomorrow

October was National Manufacturing Month when students are encouraged to learn about careers in the manufacturing sector. In previous years, Ketchie, Inc. in Concord has partnered with Mount Pleasant High School and J.M. Robinson High School for learning opportunities. This year, they needed to look no further than right next door. Winecoff Elementary School, which is adjacent to Ketchie, has recently become a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focused school. The visit tied together Manufacturing and STEM as the first week of November is also national STEM week. Ketchie was excited to get to know their neighbors and share their pride in manufacturing with approximately 150 5th graders.

The students worked on grade appropriate math problems with their teachers the week before the visit. The problems were themed around an actual part that Ketchie makes and followed the entire manufacturing process from receiving the order through shipment of the completed parts. At the shop, the students reviewed the math problems, saw a video of the part in use in the field, then split into smaller groups to do a plant tour, see the part being made, watch the part being inspected, and work in teams on a problem-solving activity involving sizing screws and bolts. Before returning to school, the students and faculty were given gift bags supplied by Ketchie’s customers and suppliers as well as being treated to a cup of Italian Ice from Papa Robb’s Paradise Ice who was onsite for the festivities.

Being one of only eight women-owned machine shops in the state of North Carolina, Ketchie has been active about promoting diversity in the field and recruiting more women into manufacturing jobs. Researchers who polled 1,000 boys and girls in Great Britain aged four to eight found many have already formed an opinion on the careers available to different genders, according to a survey commissioned by BBC Children’s In House Productions. This need to reach children at younger ages to open their minds about career choices is part of what prompted Ketchie to reach out to the elementary school this year.

“I had no idea that a true manufacturing facility was right in our own backyard! I was very interested to see the manufacturing process in action. I love how you took the time to show them how math is used in every step of the manufacturing process!” stated one of the faculty. The project is the beginning to an ongoing relationship for Ketchie and Winecoff.

“It really is a perfect match. We’re excited to get to know our neighbors and let them know about what we do here. Our doors are open to them and their parents,” said Courtney Ketchie Silver, president of Ketchie Inc. “I would encourage other small business to reach out to their community and make that investment in the next generation of our workforce. These kids are our future.”

Ketchie, Inc. ( has continuously grown since its formation in 1947; from a textile job shop serving the local textile mills to a third generation, ISO certified, woman owned corporation operating CNC equipment and providing total supply chain solutions for both government and commercial clients. Providing precision machining capabilities that include turning, milling, broaching, grinding, and gear cutting. Ketchie also produces their own line of heavy and standard mounted bearings that internationally known for their reputation. Ketchie serves a broad range of industries including railroad, mining, lumber, aggregates, textiles and many specialized original equipment manufacturers in all 50 states and across 5 continents from their strategic location in Concord, NC.

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