Tom Ward, vice president of Ward Manufacturing, displays some of the many products his company manufactures in its facility at 2230 Main St. RoundTable photo

There are viable careers in manufacturing, even for those who have only a high-school degree, and Evanston would welcome more manufacturing businesses. Those were the messages from the Manufacturing Day celebration at Ward Manufacturing, 2230 Main St., on Oct. 2.

The company, which has been in business since 1944 and in Evanston since 1953, manufactures parts that can be found in the daily life of commerce such as brake systems, trucks, trailers, plumbing fixtures and catalytic converters, said vice president Tom Ward. Pointing to a box of key fobs each stamped with the likeness of an animal, Mr. Ward said these Kleynimals were the brainchild of a woman whose young children used her keys for teething. She consulted a metallurgist, who referred her to Ward Manufacturing, which now manufactures and stamps the metal teethers.

A representative from Governor Bruce Rauner’s office read parts of the Governor’s proclamation of Oct. 2 as Manufacturing Day in Illinois.

Company president Michael Ward said Manufacturing Day in Illinois – celebrated annually on the first Friday in October – is designed “to expand public awareness of manufacturing and promote it as a real career option.

“The message should go to more than just high school students. … There are jobs available now in manufacturing – jobs going unfilled.” He also said the company, together with a supervisor from Evanston Township High School, will soon offer classes for six Evanston Township High School students. He said he “will tell them about the opportunities and how everything is computer-driven. … Salaries for trade-school and technical-school graduates do not materially differ from those for graduates of a four-year college.” He added, “We need that labor force in Evanston.”

“Evanston’s tradition of having a manufacturing base is an essential part of the City’s persona,” Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin told the RoundTable. “The meeting today at Ward’s shows that American-made products can compete. The willingness of the Ward Company to work with ETHS students will insure we do not lose our manufacturing DNA.”

State Representative Robyn Gabel said, “I’m proud of Evanston and all the advanced manufacturing we have here. The West End Business Association is a way to … let people know about advanced manufacturing and let people know that it is cutting-edge and offers a career option.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “I’m hoping that the word will go forth that Evanston loves manufacturing. We want more of these businesses to come to town and hire ETHS students to get jobs right out of high school.”

After the speeches, 80 students from local middle schools joined the open house and toured several of Evanston’s West End manufacturers to learn about their operations and career opportunities. The students then traveled to ETHS to learn about manufacturing classes offered there and tour the new manufacturing lab.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...