Thirty students from Evans, Greenbrier and Harlem high schools got a firsthand glimpse Thursday of the manufacturing world with a visit to John Deere Commercial Products in Grovetown.
The daylong agenda included a tour of the factory and a training session that new employees undergo. The highlight of the day, however, was the backhoe challenge.
In this activity, the students received hands-on experience by moving two tires from one location to another with a backhoe.
"I like having that power. It's great being able to try new things, being in control of something that big," said Chad Abbott, 18, an Evans High senior.
Chris Howell, 17, a junior at Harlem High, looked like a natural operating the equipment.
"I do it all the time at the house," he said.
Harlem senior Samantha O'Brien, 18, ran a backhoe for the first time.
"It was fun. It was exciting. I never drove a tractor before," she said. "I was kind of nervous. I didn't want to break it."
Josh Miller, 17, a Greenbrier junior, said he would like to work at John Deere one day on the plant floor or as a tractor test driver.
"The tour of the factory was pretty cool. And, of course, running the tractor was a good experience," Josh said.
The John Deere tour was part of a partnership between the manufacturer and the Columbia County school system.
Michael Canady, the school system's director of career and technology education, said he wanted the students to realize the skill levels that are needed for various jobs and the traits that companies seek in their employees.
He said he hoped the partnership would benefit John Deere also.
"This is a potential work force for them, and the kids get to see a whole gamut of possibilities of careers just in this one manufacturer," Mr. Canady said.
Richard Wallace, a John Deere manufacturing manager who organized the visit, said he wanted the students to recognize the value of their education.
He also wanted them to understand the importance of work force expectations such as punctuality, attendance, attitude and teamwork.
Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.