RIDGELY — Caroline County high school students got a look at engineering and manufacturing job opportunities in the county during a tour of three companies Thursday, March 27.

The tour, organized by the Caroline Economic Development Corporation, made stops in Federalsburg, Denton and Ridgely, where about a dozen students from pre-engineering programs at North Caroline and Colonel Richardson high schools and the industrial design program at the Caroline Career and Technology Center got a firsthand look at the manufacturing industry.

EDC Executive Director Angela Visintainer said the hope is students will return to work in Caroline County following their post-high school education.

“We want to give students an idea of what’s here,” Visintainer said.

She also hopes to start placing students in internships with those companies while they are still in high school.

Visintainer, who took over as executive director last August, said it serves her top priority for the EDC, workforce development.

“It’s the No. 1 priority, and it’s also the most difficult,” Visintainer said.

Visintainer said with 2,000 jobs, manufacturing is the largest private sector employer in the county. She plans to organize future tours for students to explore other large industries in Caroline County, like customer service.

At the first stop of the day, M&M Refrigeration Inc., in Federalsburg, students were surprised to hear the local company builds industrial refrigeration packages for customers all over the world.

Clark Andrews, mechanical engineer, a 2001 graduate of Colonel Richardson High School and 2005 graduate of the University of Maryland College Park, said he did not realize everything the company did until he was hired after college.

Andrews showed the students where the refrigeration packages are designed, and then led them through the shop where they are built before being shipped.

Students’ second tour was at Tanglewood Conservatories in Denton, where they saw how the workforce designs and builds high-end custom pool houses, greenhouses, conservatories and other structures.

Patrick Reed, director of manufacturing, said the company builds the most expensive conservatories in the world — prices on its all-custom work can run up into the multi-millions.

Students asked how such a lucrative company came to be based in Denton.

Reed said the president, Alan Stein, founded the company in Montgomery County, but moved it to Caroline because of incentives offered by the EDC.

Students met members of the sales, design, engineering and manufacturing teams within the company, to see the entire process from start to finish.

The third and final stop was at Combined Technology Solutions in Ridgely.

The company’s three full-time employees are not yet manufacturing the high-efficiency plasma ignition technology they have developed, but they are getting close, at which point they will need to hire more employees, said Joseph Parlanti, director of systems integration.

Parlanti said the company will need to hire people for both engineering and manufacturing positions when it gets to that point.

Students toured the shop, where they saw the Cadillac CTS whose gas mileage the company’s technology improved to 80 miles per gallon. The car was an entry in a challenge, sponsored by Progressive Automotive, to get 100 mpg from a regular passenger car.

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