At Greer Labs, Gamewell Middle eighth-graders get a glimpse of the future

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 05:17 PM

In a crowded board room at Greer Labs Tuesday, one eighth-grader turned to another.

“Where’d you just come from?” she asked.

“Oh, microbiology,” her friend replied, shrugging.

The two students were members of Zach Morrow’s Gamewell Middle School science class, which spent the day touring Greer’s Lenoir-based pharmaceutical labs.

Twenty-seven eighth-graders rotated throughout the company’s various departments, from production to microbiology.

The refrain throughout the day was one of surprise.

Paden Abernathy said he didn’t realize how much work (and detail) went into producing medicines. Others didn’t realize how sanitary the labs needed to be, how much math is required in science jobs, or how much documentation was required.

But even more common than that was surprise that the company existed – and existed in Caldwell County.

“I didn’t realize that a little company in Lenoir produced medicines that are used in Europe and across the United States,” Madison Rose said.

But if she decides to go into science, she could send a resume to Greer.

The company, which researches and produces allergy-related drugs, medical devices and allergenic extracts, needs employees of all stripes and collars – from warehouse workers to chemists.

Internal promotions come first, but local hires are a priority, too, said David Burney, vice president of quality, regulatory and manufacturing operations.

The company works to hire college graduates within western North Carolina and boasts a number of Appalachian State and N.C. State graduates, Burney said.

That opportunity was what Morrow hoped his students would glimpse Tuesday.

“It also shows them that there are good jobs here in our own community that require advanced education – that you don’t have to move to a big city to get a good job,” he said.

The trip was also an opportunity for kids to notice how everything they’re learning at school – not just science and math but reading, writing and comprehension as well – will come into play in the future.

“Kids, inevitably, think they don’t need math – or science, or writing skills, or any of that – that they do need,” training coordinator Misty Lawrence said.

Ashley Johnson said she didn’t realize how much math mattered in a lab setting – where painstaking, precise measurement is required.

“I did see a lot of math used,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t expect it to be a lot of math, but when I came here, there was a lot.”

As they mingled with the Gamewell kids, Greer staffers picked up on little talents and eccentricities that might point toward future careers.

Rose, the eighth-grader with the smooth, polished response about the countries where Greer products are distributed, prompted cries of, “Send your resume to marketing!”

Another student asked a quick question about an item that was dropped on the floor. That student would make a new compliance officer, employees joked.

When you’re 13, the future is a long way off.

But 27 kids from Gamewell may have gotten a glimpse of it this week.