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Manufacturers’ Council Hosts Educators to Discuss Careers

With projected regional job growth in manufacturing and skilled workers retiring, manufacturers are scrambling to attract workers.

Manufactures and Educators connect at manufacturing event. (From left to right,
Jed Schwendiman, Assistant Dean, UCR Bourns College of Engineering; Denise Darius, teacher; Kusum Kavia, manufacturer and President of Combustion Associates Inc. (CAI); and Prof. Christopher Lynch, Dean, Bourns College of Engineering – UCR.

Ontario, CA – The Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire (MCIE) hosted its first ever “red carpet” event for educators from San Bernardino and Riverside counties on October 19, 2022. One goal of the after-school conference was to expand communication between industry, students, their counselors, and teachers to help strengthen educational pathways, with guidance from manufacturing industry professionals.

The MCIE continues its decade long efforts to align the industry desired job skills with the lessons taught by educators within the K-16 system. Educators have elevated technical training, curricula, and certifications to do just that. Manufacturers are realizing the need to better communicate and promote all of the rewarding careers in this industry.

“Manufacturing is no longer just assembly line work,” said Molly Burgess, Executive Director of the Manufacturers’ Council. “We need to change the image of manufacturing, in the minds of educators, parents and students, to what it really is now. It’s no longer dirty, dark, and dangerous.  It’s automated, high-tech, sophisticated, and pays high wages with excellent benefits within 6-months of high school completion. Manufacturing offers life-long, rewarding careers.”

Educators were welcomed by manufacturers as they arrived at the event held at the Double Tree Hilton in Ontario, CA. After networking with industry professionals and enjoying appetizers, educators were able to interact with vendors who demonstrated automation and robotic training systems used in some classrooms. Guests experienced a fast-paced presentation describing the data that drives the need, and the importance of manufacturing to the regional economy.

With the manufacturers’ needs presented, attendees conducted their own table-top discussions, between educators and manufacturers, with the goal of discovering the barriers each side face in both finding employees and training future manufacturing workers. There were “ah-ha” moments, and favorite suggestions reported back to the audience.

“As I tell my story about manufacturing,” said Kusum Kavia, MCIE board member and President of Combustion Inc. (CAI), a 25-year-old manufacturer in Corona, CA that custom-engineers power generations solutions sold world-wide, “the most important thing is that it’s always about the people and building relationships. It’s about making that connection, through the educators to the students, who are looking for a challenging work environment and the ability to create something.” Kusum’s international work was recognized by former President Barack Obama, as seen here.

A local CTE High school teacher reported to the audience, “Even though there are a ton of careers in manufacturing, I believe there are a few disconnects that we need to work on to close the gap and get students into those careers. There are logistics and regulations that make it difficult to get students into your (manufacturers) facilities, but I feel like it’s something we should work on for the future. We have hard working students that would be phenomenal employees in some of your facilities, but we need to work on developing a process that allows for high school students to visit manufacturing facilities to increase their interest in those types of careers. We need guest speakers to visit your classroom. We need paid internships during summertime. We need to increase student exposure to those careers and the amazing opportunities that they offer.”

High school success stories in technical training, mechatronics, and apprenticeship programs were presented to encourage educators to consider expansion of their offerings. This included the highly touted LAUNCH Apprenticeship program in the Inland Region. (

As a wrap-up and highlight to the evening, the audience of educators was challenged to experience some of the problems manufacturers face obtaining materials, supply-chain shortages, transportation blockages, keeping production schedules, negotiating, and delivering on time by completing a puzzle activity within 10 minutes. Each table emptied as ‘make-believe manufacturers’ rushed around the room bartering, trading, and cooperating to find their missing pieces. Pieces consisted of common materials used in local manufacturing (rubber, composites, high-performance thermoplastics, glass, wood, paper, steel, and aluminum) that had been cut and donated by numerous manufacturers. The activity was organized and directed by Dr. Ron Hurst, president of Developing Leaders Inc. Audience members reflected, in their comments, about the importance of communications and cooperation.

Manufacturing speakers included Cinnamon Alvarez, founder and owner of A-19, an artisanal lighting company, and board member of the San Bernardino Workforce Development Board; Stacy DeVoll, president of DeVoll Rubber and member of the High Desert Manufacturers’ Council; Kusum Kavia, president of CAI in Corona, CA, and board member for the MCIE.

Automated systems and robotic demonstrations were presented by Klein Educational Systems, a leader in industry automated learning solutions, Advanced Technical Consulting, a national technical training equipment and curriculum provider, and Garner Holt, Education through Imagination.

The event was sponsored in part by California Manufacturing and Technology Consultants, the Chaffey College InTech Training Center, Victor Valley Community Colleges’ High Desert Training Center, ACT Training, and Klein Educational Systems.

The Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire (MCIE), the voice of regional manufacturers, supports education and workforce training on behalf of manufacturers throughout the region, offering expertise in a variety of topics including innovative workforce solutions. Resources and problem-solving strategies, that are provided through MCIE membership, generate positive economic impacts to employers, employees, students (from grade school through college), and the community at large. For more information on events, or to register, visit

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