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Libbey Glass in Shreveport pitches high schoolers on value of trades

Kate Archer Kent

More than 600 high school students from northwest Louisiana are touring manufacturing plants this week to see firsthand what these blue-collar jobs are like. The Libbey Glass factory in Shreveport hosted 12 students Wednesday from Red River High School in Coushatta.

Shannon Taylor, Libbey’s press value stream manager, gave students an up-close look at the furnaces. About 200 tons of glass pass through them every day. Taylor has been employed with Libbey 19 years. He wants to impress on these teenagers that they can find career fulfillment– even if they don’t go to college.

“It may not be in anybody’s heart here to make glass, but it may be for welding, machining, or sheet metal fabrication. They’ve got options,” Taylor said.

Libbey Glass plant manager Frank Russell is a 41-year veteran of the company. With 560 employees -- more than a quarter of them Baby Boomers, like himself -- he’s well aware of his challenge to fill an aging workforce. He’s trying to change a long-held stereotype.

“Manufacturing is not the dark, dingy, dirty and unsafe workplace that a lot of people have in their mindset,” Russell said.

Credit Kate Archer Kent
About 200 tons of glass flow through furnaces at Libbey Glass every day.

Student William Davis says he wants to be an engineer, but his fallback is welding. His brother is a journeyman. But Davis is fearful of getting stuck in doing the same manual labor.

“I would like to move up in the chain. I just don’t want to stay for a good 20 or 30 years at the same job. I would like to move up,” Davis said, following the 45-minute tour.

The North Louisiana Economic Partnership organized these tours as part of national manufacturing week. In all, 15 manufacturing facilities opened their doors to students from 20 high schools.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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