HUDSON -- Hudson High School students received a behind-the-scenes look at manufacturing and the career opportunities that await them in the field with a visit to three local companies on Manufacturing Day, Friday, Oct. 4.

The 150 freshmen and sophomores visited GEA, Croix Gear and Machinery and Nor-Lake to learn more about the companies and manufacturing as a career.

The visit was a collaboration between the Hudson School District, Chamber of Commerce and the three local companies -- designed not only to show students different career paths but also to address the shortage of workers in manufacturing.

Chamber President Mary Claire said the younger grades were chosen to give kids exposure to the career options early on.

Hudson District School to Career coordinator Leslie Bleskachek said students aren’t always aware of the wide array of career options they have.

Many see the manufacturing companies here in Hudson, but have no idea what happens inside them, she said. The employers were open to the experience, Bleskachek said, letting the students see the opportunities that are here.

“When they’re ready to graduate, whatever decision they make, it’s an informed decision,” she said.

GEA workshop manager Greg Huus said the day gives the kids a chance to see opportunities from the front office to working in the shop. There are many paths into manufacturing , including tech schools, two-year or four-year degrees as well as joining out of high school.

“There’s definitely a shortage of people entering the manufacturing field,” Huus said.

Croix Gear CEO and President Ruth Johnston said an event like this benefits all skilled trades.

“We need to change the thinking about all skilled trades,” she said.

Johnston, who took over Croix Gear several years ago when her husband died, also took a moment to speak directly to the women in the group at the start of the tour.

“So you women know, you can be a president and CEO of a manufacturing company,” she said.

The tours were the first step of the collaboration, and Johnston said there is more to come.

“This is not just a one-day plan,” she said.

They hope to start a camp for students in third grade and up to learn about science and manufacturing opportunities.

“This has really become a big thing,” Johnston said.

In discussions around manufacturing careers, Johnston said other issues such as affordable housing and transportation shortages have surfaced. They are pieces, she said, of how employers support their workforce.