NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. — Almost every high school student has a decision to make by the end of their senior year, namely work, or college. And there are many options for those wanting to go straight into the working world.

With rail and highway access in all four directions, and being situated in the middle of the country to start with, it’s no accident that manufacturing is huge business in the Four States.

But most manufacturers in the area are short on employees, and future high school graduates could be the answer to that worker shortfall. The workforce investment board brought both of those groups face to face as part with the Advanced Manufacturing Expo.

“The main goal is to provide those students from 8th grade to high school seniors with the experience of just meeting the manufacturers, talking to them, seeing how they make their product, what their starting wage is, you know, what kind of careers they could have with these manufactures,” said Sherri Rhuems, Ex. Director, Workforce Investment Board.

Quinton Cox still hasn’t made up his mind if college is in his future so now he knows there are other options.

“It definitely puts thought in their mind on ‘Hey, I don’t have to go to college, but if I wanted to, I could,'” said Cox.

300 high school students from Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma took part in the event which featured 15 area employers.

“We want the kids to know that there are opportunities after high school, uh we have opportunities even after taking college courses like in engineering, maintenance, food quality jobs, or if they’re not interested in going to college, there are opportunities to be production operators and still get a good job and full benefits right out of high school,” said Troy Reynolds, Blue Buffalo Learning Leader.

The event is put on annually at the Newton County Fairgrounds by the Workforce Investment Board.