GREENVILLE, S.C. — As future Boston Red Sox players circled the diamond, up to a thousand students roamed the ballpark concourse checking out robots and other interactive displays.
Workforce development can be child’s play.
The Greenville Drive again is planning several game nights this year to promote potential career areas for middle- and high-school students.
“We essentially match up with how the school has designed their career pods, and then we get the manufacturing companies that are associated with those pods to create interactive exhibits,” team owner Craig Brown said in a recent interview at the team’s offices.
Stadiums are taking on a career fair flair to get students focused earlier on pursuing a potential career and perhaps working someday at a local company.
In New Hampshire, the Fisher Cats have three game nights planned this season at their Manchester stadium to showcase science-related fields, leading off with NASA/Space Night on July 22 at 7:05 p.m.
“To show them what’s out there for careers,” said Fisher Cats president Mike Ramshaw.
The special event days will focus on STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.
Past years have included special days tied to school field trips during day games.
This year, the Fisher Cats’ career days are actually at night, a quirk of the baseball schedule. That will enable more parents to attend.
“As a parent, if my child shows interest, I am interested because they’re interested,” Ramshaw said. “The parents can actually interact and see their child’s level of engagement.”
The NASA/Space Night will include a solar-system display and highlight the New Hampshire stories of Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe and American space pioneer Alan B. Shepard.
“We’re hoping to do a bunch of fun facts and videos on the (stadium’s) video board about space,” said Stephanie Fournier, director of hospitality and special events.
The other science events at the stadium include the weather (Aug. 24) and STEM (Sept. 15).
Unlike the Fisher Cats, the Greenville team gives out free tickets to students for the career events.
Starting them young
Employers, whether in New Hampshire or South Carolina, are trying to reach students earlier and attract their attention — and perhaps hire them some day.
“It’s not every day you think of a baseball team and a stadium as a platform for workforce development,” said Garth Warner, vice president of Hubbell Lighting, which employs 600 in Greenville. “We initially targeted high school, but we have since realized we’ve got to get students interested in engineering earlier, so we’ve gone down to middle school.”
In past years, Hubbell has brought in lights that can be turned on or off or change colors with a phone app. The company also has conducted a scavenger hunt in the stadium, with people identifying Hubbell lighting for prizes.
While Greenville-area employers compete for some of the same job-seekers, they see the greater good.
“You could argue that BMW and Michelin and Hubbell, they’re all competing for the same people and in a sense they are, but what they’re really doing is they’re competing with the Research Triangle (in North Carolina),” Brown said. “They’re competing with New Hampshire and ... other places.”
The local school district, Greenville County Schools, participates in the advanced manufacturing and health career days.
“Kids can get a better understanding of businesses they see on billboards,” said Eric Williams, the district’s executive director for career and technical education. “It gives them an under-the-covers peek of what they’re trying to do.”
Greenville’s nights will focus on advanced manufacturing, health care, aerospace and celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship. A fifth one on teaching will return next year.
“Ultimately, the goal is to generate interest in the next generation of engineers and talent that would be interested in manufacturing, so they realize their employment opportunities within the community,” Warner said.