cool jobs

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Students at a previous Cool Jobs Tour learning about the different career options in the Elk River area.

Three manufacturers in Elk River to open their doors to students, their parents and the community for behind-the-scenes look

by Jim Boyle


As students and parents settle into a new school year, the conversation for parents and older children will soon turn to what the future holds and career options.

Local businesses, directors of economic development, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce and officials for the Elk River Area School District and its Career and Technical Education program know this, and they are eager to resume their Cool Jobs Tour in Manufacturing.

It’s scheduled from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12. This will be the third one hosted by the Workforce Development Committee. This year’s will offer informational tours at Metal Craft, Distinctive Iron and Sportech for the public, including families, job seekers, schools and community groups.

“The Cool Jobs Tour in Manufacturing is the perfect way to have both parents and students explore high-demand, high-tech careers right in their own communities,” said Amy Lord, the coordinator of CTE for the Elk River Area School District. “Most people do not know what it looks like in Metal Craft, Sportech or Distinctive Iron. They are often surprised to find the high-tech equipment, the well-lit and clean shops, and the highly skilled employees, from engineers, drafters, machine programmers and operators, human resources, marketing, managers and more.

“I hope that we can educate our families and community members about all the possibilities that are available. It is all about finding your passion.”

The District 728 CTE program offers tours, guest speakers, career events and field trips to help students explore careers.

The annual Cool Jobs Tour was launched in 2018 and took a year off in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The goal three years ago was to make sure manufacturing careers are not overlooked. That’s still an important factor, and maybe even more so now.

“As many have heard, employers are short- staffed,” said Debbi Rydberg, the director of the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce. “This began before the pandemic and will likely continue for some time.”

Rydberg attributes the shortage to the changing needs of companies and the people they hire.

“The pandemic certainly exacerbated the situation,” she said. “Bringing potential employees into the local manufacturer helps them tell their story about what they do, the culture they have and the rewarding nature of the work they accomplish.”

The local tours are part of the Minnesota Manufactured Statewide Tour of Manufacturing.

Lord said in a press release today’s manufacturing is about advanced technologies, state-of-the-art facilities, and fast-paced, interesting work environments.

“But most of all, manufacturing is about those people who like to see the product of a hard day’s work,” the release stated.

“One of the primary reasons we host this event is to make sure that students and their parents are getting great information about possible careers,” Rydberg said. “We know that career choices are often influenced by parents who may not have the latest information on career options, especially those that do not require a four-year degree. While some college training is needed, many times there are options that might be considered non-traditional such as employer-based training and part time work while taking classes, that make these careers perfect for students.”

Participants who sign up for the Cool Jobs Tour will be able to see for themselves the:

• Variety of career opportunities available at local companies (wages, job skills, responsibilities, benefits).

• Pathways and education to building the knowledge and skills needed to qualify for today’s jobs.

• Purpose and value of the modern manufacturing companies located in the community.

Lord says a special thank you goes to the Elk River Chamber and the employers for making the time to share their businesses.

“I hope we have a great turn out as Dunwoody will talk about education opportunities and Metal Craft will share success stories,” she said.

Rydberg said the Cool Jobs Tour is possible because of support from not only the three businesses offered on the tour but also the ISD 728 CTE program, under Lord’s leadership.

“Without their support and connections, this type of programming would not be possible,” Rydberg said. “It is our plan to move forward with this program annually.”

Minnesota manufacturers make anything from snowmobiles, construction equipment, building structures, airplane parts, military technology and life-saving medical devices to baseball bats and wooden toys, just to name a few.

Manufacturing is the backbone of Minnesota’s economy, Lord said. According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, the industry impacts over 30% of Minnesota jobs.

These tours are supported by ISD 728, Elk River Chamber and local businesses as part of Minnesota Manufactured Statewide Tour of Manufacturing, led by the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence.

Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, Central Minnesota Manufacturers’ Association, Midwest Manufacturers’ Association and the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence are platinum sponsors for this event.

To learn more about Minnesota Manufactured, visit

Cool Jobs Tour in Manufacturing

When: 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12

Who: Distinctive Iron, 5970 Jarvis St NW, fabricates structural and miscellaneous steel and aluminum.

Metal Craft, 13760 Business Center Drive, is recognized among the leading suppliers in medical device and implant manufacturing by providing custom machining solutions.

Sportech, 10752 168th Circle NW, is a recognized leader in the design, development and manufacturing of vehicle cab enclosures, windshields and associated styling elements for powersports, golf, agriculture and more.

What: Tours at 4 and 5 p.m. Closing program at 6 p.m. Those registering will have the opportunity to choose between Distinctive Iron, Metal Craft or Sportech for both Tour 1 and Tour 2. From 6-7 p.m. everyone is invited to come to Metal Craft for food, prizes and a presentation from Metal Craft and the Dunwoody College of Technology.

Registration: Registration is required and can be done online at

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