We are very proud to introduce our Dream It. Do It. MN/WC Manufacturing Career Dream Team members. These up and coming talented manufacturing employees are visiting middle-school and high-school classes throughout the region, speaking about manufacturing careers and providing technical assistance on classroom projects. They are also available to speak to community groups that want to learn more about the many career opportunities available within the industry.
Team members include: Melany Arceneau, Weston Arntson, Amanda Bentley, Cody Cirks, Levi Danielson, Alex Elliott, Sam Ewald, Derek Klimek, Ian Pickett, Kyle Swenstad, Jimmy Jevnager, and Ryan Swiontek. Team members come from a variety of educational and career pathways, and each member has a unique story to tell.
Melany's interest in manufacturing started in fourth grade when she went on a field trip and engaged in a hands-on activity that required her to move a marble from point A to point B. After high school she applied for, and was accepted into, the “Imagineer” program with Disney, where she hoped to design roller coasters. While intriguing, she decided to forego the opportunity with Disney and instead, decided to attend NDSU and earn a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Design. Today, Melany works as a Mechanical Design Engineer at Massman Automation Designs, LLC in Villard, Minnesota.
Cody earned a two-year degree from Alexandria Technical College and four-year degrees in Manufacturing Management and Quality Management from University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC). He attended Alexandria Technical and Community College during the day, worked at Douglas Scientific at night, and completed the two degrees with UMC on the weekends online. Cody believes it is important for youth to “understand the return on investment that a manufacturing-related education/career pathway will yield.” He works as a Customer Quality Engineer at FORCE America, Inc. in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Sam’s interest in manufacturing began with building Lego space ships as an eight-year-old child. His mother told him, “if you like building things, you should think about becoming an engineer.” Fast forward 15 years, and Sam says he is “still playing with Legos, but instead of building with Legos, I am designing the kits and instruction manuals for putting them together, figuratively speaking.” Sam holds a bachelor’s degree from NDSU and works at Massman Automation Designs, LLC in Villard, Minnesota as a Design Engineer.
Jimmy grew up playing with Legos and always knew he wanted to build things. In high school, he took a lot of metals classes—anything related to manufacturing. Jimmy says he “made poor choices in high school and ended up dropping out.” Jimmy earned a GED and went to college, but ended up dropping out of college, too. He learned CNC programming and other manufacturing skills on the job. He says that “working in manufacturing is a passion.” He works as a CNC Programmer at FORCE America in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Amanda graduated from Brainerd High School and has always enjoyed solving problems and thinking creatively. Throughout her time at school, math and science classes interested her most. She attended Bemidji State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science in May 2018. After graduation Amanda had an internship at Vector Windows which sparked her passion for manufacturing. Her internship transitioned into a full-time position as a Business Systems Analyst at Vector Windows in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Alex Elliott graduated from Ashby High School and has enjoyed building a career at Northern Contours in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where he has worked for the last four years. He works as a router operator for the company and says "I enjoy manufacturing because you start with raw materials, virtually nothing, and make something neat!"
Derek grew up on a farm where he developed problem-solving skills. As a child, playtime involved fixing hand-me-down toys, sparking his interest in manufacturing and designing. He found that he enjoyed math and industrial courses in high school, and went on to attend Alexandria Technical and Community College, receiving an AAS degree in Mechanical Design, Drafting and Engineering. Derek says he chose the two-year degree path because “I didn’t want to pay the money for a four-year degree, and after two-years, I could get out and was basically guaranteed I could get a job in the area I grew up in.” Derek is a Design Engineer at Massman Automation Designs, LLC in Villard, Minnesota.
Manufacturing wasn’t just a job that was hands on for me. It was about finding out what made things work. Most of the experience I had with any sort of manufacturing at a young age were with K’nex toys and making custom furniture with my grandpa, however this experience grew when I was about 17 working part-time in a warehouse for the Daily Journal. My quick deductions and hands on skill excelled in an environment like that and after a few years of working there I felt I needed to move on to something bigger, thus starting my career at Northern Contours in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Ryan graduated from Fergus Falls High School, where he was introduced to a lot of different careers, ranging from automotive technician to accounting. At a career expo, he had the opportunity to talk to employees of West Tool and Design which sparked his interest. He went to Alexandria Technical and Community College, where he earned a two-year degree in Machine Tool and Technology. After tech school, he went to work at ITW Heartland in Alexandria, Minnesota. He holds the position of Senior Machinist at ITW Heartland.
Manufacturing Career Dream members are available to speak about manufacturing careers in schools throughout the West Central region. Interested schools should contact Sandy Kashmark to request more information or to schedule the Dream Team.
Manufacturing Career Dream Team sponsors include: Massman Automation and Designs, LLC; ITW Heartland; FORCE America; Dream It. Do It. Minnesota; Tri-State Manufacturers' Association; and West Central Initiative.