Freshmen Tour Gerdau Steel Mill

Students learn to stay on the green safety path.

Steel workers, chemists, and computer engineers can all be found at Gerdau Steel Mill where thirty-five freshmen and Oral Comm teacher Mrs. Springs visited in December to take a look at the different job opportunities there. The Mill produces 500,000 tons of steel a year and employs 545 full-time workers and over 230 contractors. During their tour, students saw both sides of a work place — manual labor and management/computer systems.

“The students thought it was cool that steel from the mill right here in Fort Smith is most likely a part of every vehicle driving around town,” Mrs. Springs said. “The steel bars are shipped to customers and plants in other areas of the U.S. and other countries, including Mexico, where it is formed into gears, cam shafts, etc. on many of the cars and trucks we all drive!”

After putting on safety gear, the students entered the mill to see first-hand the daily operations of the mill.

“Standing twenty feet away, we could feel the heat coming off the bars,” Timmery Bourns said. “It was SO hot!”

Each person had a favorite part of the tour.

“Re-sizing steel from huge rolled bars to tiny little products was the most interesting part,” Alexis Dowdy said.

The different machines and equipment drew students’ attention, too.

“The bar grinders were cool,” Mari Sumbler said. “Sparks flew everywhere!”

In order to shape the bars, though, it needs to get a little hot.

“Standing 20 feet away, you could feel the heat coming off of the bars,” Timmery Bourns said. “It was SO hot!”

Fortunately, precautions were made for the safety of the workers and guests.

“The green safety trail marked for walking in safe areas was sort of burned,” Alan Vargas said. “Was it safe?”

Despite the heat, some students really enjoyed the experience.

“Melting steel was radical!” Gabe Meadows said.

Others enjoyed parts of the mill that were not out on the main floor.

“It was interesting that there was free soda in the machine!” Elvis Nguyen said.

Even though touring the actual mill excited the freshmen, the trip had a further educational purpose.

“The most beneficial aspect of the trip was for the students to see what real ‘work’ looks like,” Mrs. Springs said. “Their parents, family members, and friends of the family work, but students don’t really see what that looks like. Getting a first-hand view of someone’s day-to-day work life is enlightening. Most of the students on the trip did not know Gerdau existed, much less what they actually do.”