Picture of equipment at McDowell ManufacturingStudents at McDowell Manufacturing- a program at McDowell Senior High School in Erie, PA- delivered their first order of parts to Munot Plastics last month. The students manufactured ‘stacker rods’ to be used in the production of the company’s plastic products. Munot was one of the first companies in Erie to express interest in having the students produce parts they needed and at the same time assist the students to learn new skills. The students are now working on projects for EFI Connections and Eriez Magnetics. One of the students already has a full-time job at PHB, Inc. Lance Weyland went through an interview process and was offered a full-time position upon graduation as a CNC Machinist Position, and will start onboarding on a part- time basis this summer.

Picture inside McDowell Manufacturing

Even amidst the pandemic, it’s been a busy and productive year for the student-run enterprise that provides hands-on experience running a manufacturing company, from production supervision, design, and operating CNC machines to marketing, sales, and quoting jobs. “The program currently has 20 students, far above the goal of 7 for the first year of the enterprise. There are 55 students who have applied for the 2021/2022 school year. The students think it’s a great introduction to manufacturing, but also in terms of running a company, learning skills, and setting themselves apart for when they enter the workforce or continue their education,” said Kyle Bucholtz, McDowell Manufacturing Teacher.

“The program isn’t just about career awareness, but it’s providing actual hands experience in running a manufacturing enterprise and producing actual parts for local companies,” said Bob Zaruta, President of Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC). “One key to the program is identifying manufacturing companies who embrace this concept and want to participate – that’s where NWIRC fits in to help identify companies and make those connections.”

Some Background on McDowell Manufacturing

Photo of Cooper Coursey, McDowell High School student working in McDowell Manufacturing
Cooper Coursey, McDowell High School student working in McDowell Manufacturing

McDowell Senior High School started a Manufacturing Academy in 2019 to offer courses credited courses in topics such as technology, design, engineering, CNC machining, safety, and use of manufacturing equipment and software, including a 5 Axis CNC machine. The concept of the new student-run manufacturing enterprise, known as McDowell Manufacturing, puts the information learned in their coursework to practical use as students produce actual parts, deliver services, and add value as part of the supply chain for local manufacturers.

At the same time this work readiness is occurring, 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 the PA Smart Grant awarded to Millcreek Township School District and NWIRC in February 2020, in addition to support from private foundations such as Gene Haas Foundation and the Northwestern PA Chapter of the National Tooling & Machining Association.

Photo inside McDowell Manufacturing

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). Early support for the new student‐run enterprise has been strong. Numerous manufacturers have noted their enthusiasm of McDowell Manufacturing because it will parallel the education that students receive with putting their skills to practical use.  Early supporters include: Matrix Tool, Inc., South Erie Production Company (SEPCO), EFI Connection, South Morgan Technologies, Erie Bronze & Aluminum Co., Eriez Magnetics, Onex, Inc., and Telerob USA, Inc., EFI Connections, Modern Industries and PHB. A strong Advisory Board is one of the key components to linking McDowell Manufacturing to the community. Members of the Advisory Board are Adam Jaroh ‐ Telerob USA, Inc.; Michael Noonan ‐ EFI Connections; Jerry Haas ‐ Haas Automation; Eric Confer ‐ Eriez Manufacturing; Erin McCracken ‐ PHB; Bill Hilbert, Jr., ‐ Reddog Industries, Inc.; Bob Zaruta & Andy Idzik ‐ NWIRC along with Darcie Moseley, Aaron O’Toole, Brian Fuller, and Kyle Bucholtz ‐ MTSD.

Take a Virtual Tour of McDowell Manufacturing

Watch this 8-minute documentary video to learn more about McDowell Manufacturing, see some of the technology, and hear directly from the students involved.