by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Numerous organizations across the region are working to address workforce challenges in manufacturing, and many are working directly with schools to expose to the new, up and coming talent the vast opportunities available. NWIRC is also doing just that. With this academic school year coming to a close, I thought good timing to share some of the activity.

Photo of students from McDowell Manufacturing
Students with (L) McDowell instructor Kyle Bucholtz and (R) Bob Zaruta, NWIRC

McDowell Manufacturing. In previous articles, we’ve highlighted the exciting program at McDowell High School in Erie, ‘McDowell Manufacturing’- a student-run enterprise. Now wrapping up their 2nd year in operation, they continue to make real parts for real companies. The student enterprise is a valuable part of their customers’ supply chain. The program grew from 21 students in year one to 60 students this past year, and looks promising to be close to 100 for the new school year in the Fall. The program received a $99,000 expansion grant as part of the PA Manufacturing Training to Career (MTTC) program from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). McDowell Manufacturing was also chosen as one of only five ‘manufacturing companies’ doing great things for a photo shoot by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network. The photo shoot took place in April, and featured students working in their technology lab as well as visiting onsite at one their customers’ facility, Advanced Welding Technology. Some of the photos from the session are featured in this newsletter issue (Page 4), with more on the NWIRC website.

Manufacturing Training to Career check presentation to Bradford Area School District.
Photo of Senator Cris Dush and DCED Secretary Neil Weaver
DCED Secretary Neil Weaver and Senator Cris Dush examine a part recently produced by students planning to be part of Dutch Manufacturing.

NWIRC assisted two additional school districts in our region with exploring a similar student-run enterprise model at their high schools and co-applied for MTTC grants. These schools were each awarded a $200,000 grant to launch their programs for the 2022/2023 school year. BAHS Manufacturing. Bradford Area High School announced their award this past April and will launch BAHS Manufacturing as a collaboration among students in their existing programs for business, pre-engineering, and machining. The program is strongly supported by elected officials, Senator Dush and Representative Causer, who attended the recent press event. Several manufacturers, along with some students planning to participate in the enterprise, were there to share their excitement to start working with the program.
Dutch Manufacturing. The student-run enterprise at St Marys Area High School, Dutch Manufacturing, held an event to announce their program just a couple weeks ago. In addition to special guests Senator Dush and Representative Armanini, DCED Secretary Neil Weaver traveled from Harrisburg to share his support for these student-run manufacturing enterprises launching around our region. He said these programs “address the root causes of the labor shortage by truly engaging students with more than just having a guest speaker or doing a field trip”. The new teacher for Dutch Manufacturing is in place and Superintendent, Harley Ramsey, said they started marketing the program to students. From a survey conducted with students regarding various career pathways, 60 out of the 80 responses cited interest in being involved with Dutch Manufacturing (and there are only 40 slots available).

The work with student-run enterprises continues as NWIRC works with school districts in other counties in northern PA, so you can expect even more opportunities for high school students to explore all aspects of manufacturing by running their own business. Expect more opportunities for students to connect, collaborate, and solve problems with and for the manufacturing industry. Expect more opportunities for students to get hooked on manufacturing, period.