LINCOLN, R.I. A new partnership between ChemArt and the East Providence Area Career and Technical Center has given high school seniors the opportunity to explore various career opportunities within the manufacturing industry.

The project enables students to work with ChemArt, a manufacturer of decorative ornaments and custom designed Frank Lloyd Wright themed jewelry in Lincoln, R.I., to oversee the creation of an ornament for their senior class.

The partnership was first forged by Chris Matteson, deputy director for the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and Certified Career Counselor for the Governor’s Workforce Board’s Manufacturing Industry Partnership, a partnership led by Polaris MEP and RIMA and Rob Calef, Human Resource Manager at ChemArt.

The pair felt it was important to expose more students to manufacturing and created the program as a part of the MIP’s youth outreach.

The project kicked off in November when thirteen students from Delia Nelson’s Graphics class toured the ChemArt facility and met with ChemArt’s president, graphics design manager and VP of operations.

Currently, students are working with ChemArt’s Graphics Design department to submit their ornament design ideas. ChemArt designers will then help students refine their designs while maintaining each student’s unique vision.

In mid-February a panel of judges, comprised of teachers and administrators from the East Providence Area Career and Technical Center, will select the top three designs based off these sketches. The final ornament design will be chosen by ChemArt.

Before going into production, designs will be prototyped to ensure each piece can be built as desired. By overseeing the complete process from conceptualization to production, students will gain a better understanding of the skills and activities that are required for a career in manufacturing.

“When you’re in schools like ours, you learn so much within the classroom walls, but a lot of times you don’t have the opportunity to go into a manufacturing plant and see the process from start to finish," said Karen Mellen, director of the East Providence Career and Technical Center. "You don’t always get that hands on experience.”

In addition to manufacturing experience, students will also gain exposure to sales, marketing, and cost accounting during the program.

“I’m looking forward to this program now that more students are aware of the different career opportunities within manufacturing,” said Matteson. "Students aren’t exposed to something like this, especially in metro areas like East Providence.”

Calef considers the program a “win-win-win” situation for all organizations involved.

"It reflects well for the school by being involved with an outside organization to give people practical experience in a real life scenario,” said Calef. “It is also good for ChemArt because it attracts the attention of students who are preparing to enter the workforce or perhaps go on to a college education or a trade school, so they have a clearer understanding of what real life work in manufacturing consists of.”

Given its potential benefit to additional students, Matteson and Calef hope to expand the program statewide in the coming years. Depending on the success of this year’s program, they would like to transform the program into a competition in which high school students can create senior ornament designs, vote on a winning concept, and put the ornament into production. Schools can then use the senior class ornament as a fundraising tool.

Most importantly, the program furthers MIP’s mission to dispel common misconceptions about the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturing "is often viewed as a second tier career choice,” Calef said. “When people think of manufacturing, they think of unsafe, dirty, loud, noisy environments that require very little as far as formal skill sets and training. While that was true about sixty years ago, it is not so much the case now. The median salary in manufacturing in the state of Rhode Island is over $50,000 a year.”