PA Governor Tom Wolf speaking at McDowell Manufacturing
PA Governor Tom Wolf offers remarks while on tour at McDowell Manufacturing

Governor Wolf’s visit to McDowell Manufacturing

McDowell High School may be wrapping up another school year, but the students of McDowell Manufacturing are still focused on their work and also showcasing their student-run enterprise to others. They had a special guest tour their technology lab on Thursday, May 27 – PA Governor Tom Wolf. The students did a phenomenal job explaining the technology they use and the parts they are producing for their customers. Following the tour, Governor Wolf said, “I want to talk about the wow that I feel. This is the future of education. This program is really impressive, and we need to be sure we are providing not only good education, but also relevant. I love what I see here today. Manufacturing is important, and the students are coming out of this program with the idea that manufacturing is really neat and not something to shy away from. I imagine the students are telling their parents this too. Manufacturing is important, not just in Erie and Pennsylvania, but all across the county. There are more than 560,000 Pennsylvanians in manufacturing right now, nearly 10% of PA workforce. Those jobs in manufacturing offer well-paying family sustaining careers that reward workers for their skills and creativity, just like what I saw here today.”

NWIRC President/CEO, Bob Zaruta, credited the success of McDowell Manufacturing to the teachers and administration of Millcreek Township School District for supporting this enriching opportunity. But, also credited success to Governor Wolf’s commitment to manufacturing in PA. Zaruta said, “It’s because of Governor Wolf’s vision – that in Pennsylvania, the level of skilled workers needs to increase as well as opportunities for family sustaining wages. And, his actions to help stimulate the innovation of programs like this with the funding to get them off the ground.”

During remarks, Zaruta also noted that while working with the McDowell Manufacturing students during their strategic planning session and focusing on their vision statement, the students said their hopes for the future of the program include: 1) more and more students getting involved with McDowell Manufacturing, 2) other students at other schools starting student-run manufacturing enterprises of their own, and 3) that within 10 years, this type of real-word experience is the norm for education.

McDowell Manufacturing went from 22 students enrolled in their first year to over 60 students in this current school year (2021-2022) that will soon be ending. The students manufactured 13,522 parts for 10 manufacturing companies. They were also chosen for a national photo shoot by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network.

More background on McDowell Manufacturing

McDowell Manufacturing is a student-run enterprise making real parts for local manufacturing companies. At the same time work readiness is occurring for the students, capacity for local manufacturers is advancing, a short-term solution to job placement is underway, future talent pipeline issues are being addressed, and the next generation of manufacturing business leaders is being cultivated. Some of the positions of the student-run enterprise include Production Manager, Machinists, Business Manager, and Marketing Manager. The program was accelerated by Manufacturing Training to Career Grants via the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), in addition to support from private foundations such as Gene Haas Foundation and the Northwestern PA Chapter of the National Tooling & Machining Association Education Foundation. Essential for McDowell Manufacturing is the collaborative partnership among Millcreek Township School District, area manufacturers, and NWIRC (one of seven PA Industrial Resource Centers (IRCs).