by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

October flew by, but not without a flurry of activity promoting the industry for Manufacturing Day (Week and Month)! NWIRC’s key focus throughout the year is manufacturing, but it’s great to spend extra attention on the mission of showing students opportunities and the ‘cool’ factor of manufacturing. In October’s newsletter, I focused on some small manufacturers I had the opportunity to meet in Kane, PA. I was able to continue my series of road trips throughout the region by spending some time in Clarion and Venango Counties for Manufacturing Day tours.

Kronospan / Clarion Industries

Rep. Donna Oberlander (left) and NWIRC’s Bob Zaruta (right) with a group of CCCC Construction Technology students

PA State Representative Donna Oberlander and I had the opportunity to tour Clarion Industries alongside students from Clarion County Career Center (CCCC). Plant Managers, Jim Confer (Boards) and Tim Reitz (Laminates), led the group through the facility focusing on automation at the sites and the wide-array of job opportunities throughout both plants. Confer told the students he started at the company years ago as a sander, and is now the manager of the Boards Plant. The students in the Construction Technology program at CCCC were engaged in learning about the products the company makes for the construction industry.

Time Machine

Cheryl Ferry (center) with Rep. Lee James and students from VTC

A group of Venango Technical Center (VTC) students joined PA State Representative Lee James and myself on a tour of Time Machine in Polk (Venango County) with host Cheryl Ferry, Time Machine Operations Director. The students, in programs ranging from computer aided drafting to machine tool technology, were able to see first-hand how the skills they are learning applies to a career at the company. Ferry said they are looking to build their workforce, so they offer options such as job shadowing, co-ops, and apprenticeships because they weren’t getting the talent just walking through the doors. She said that partnering with schools gives them a chance to show students the opportunities available and that Time Machine is a growing business.

Specialty Fabrication and Powder Coating (SFPC)

(L-R): Bob Zaruta, NWIRC; Earl Lytle, SFPC; Devin Morrison, VTC Welding Student; and Rep. Lee James pictured in front of the company’s laser machine

At SFPC, Rep. James and I were able to tour their 46,000 square foot facility in Franklin (Venango County) led by VP of Operations, Earl Lytle. He said SFPC has a great team of supervisors and individuals with specialty skills, and they have aggressively been investing in the business adding high-tech equipment (automation and robotics) to remain competitive in their markets, but there are still challenges. Throughout the tour, he mentioned one of their biggest needs is finding qualified welders and machinists. He said they can easily provide training, if they can find individuals interested in the manufacturing environment and the work the company is doing. The company uses different approaches to improve their workforce pipeline. They typically host 3-5 Venango Technical Center (VTC) welding students at any given time and they recently hired a new high school grad who they are training to work in various areas of the company.

As always, it was exciting to see the great things our regional manufacturers are doing, in terms of the products they make, the investments they are making in their companies and communities, and the way they are trying to inspire youth for the future.