Over 120 students from across the northwest and north central region of Pennsylvania convened last month on May 7th in Warren PA for the first annual Student-Run Manufacturing Enterprise (SRME) Summit hosted by NWIRC.

With the theme, ‘Reaching New Heights’, this conference was geared for students who are running a manufacturing business out of their high schools in order for them to share best practices for making their programs (businesses) stronger. Schools that participated in this year’s Summit include: McDowell High School in Erie (McDowell Manufacturing), St Marys Area High School in St Marys (Dutch Manufacturing), Bradford Area High School (Parkway Industrial), Warren County Career Center (1st Class Precision Manufacturing), Clarion-Limestone High School (Lion Manufacturing), Titusville High School (Rocket Manufacturing), and Corry High School (in early planning stages of a program). The event, coordinated and emceed by NWIRC’s Manufacturing Talent Stream Coordinator, Tara Lawrence, featured students from each of the schools presenting their successes and challenges over the past year. They also provided tips to the other schools and asked for input from others. The day also included a get-to-know-each-other icebreaker of ‘people bingo’ with Molly Reichard, NWIRC’s Culture Development Advisor, a ‘standardized work challenge’ facilitated by NWIRC Operational Excellence Specialist Shane Cantrell, panel discussion, and networking with company sponsors. The business panel discussion, moderated by NWIRC’s President/CEO Bob Zaruta, featured individuals in various manufacturing roles, including Rick Young, President of Sintergy; John Weible, Project Administrator at Miller Fabrication Solutions, Kevryn Boser-Dixon, Reliability Manager at American Refining Group, and Shana Bailey, Marketing Manager at Viking Plastics. The panelists shared their career path, experiences in their roles, and answered questions from the students focused on various areas of manufacturing including leadership, sales, engineering, quality, and marketing.

Businesses and organizations supporting this year’s Summit include Haas, Miller Fabrication Solutions, Gasbarre Products, Ellwood Group, Beverage Air, American Refining Group, and NWPA-NTMA. NWIRC was integral in helping these regional high schools plan and launch their programs, building awareness, and connecting with local manufacturers. The SRME model puts the information learned during coursework to practical use as they produce actual parts, deliver services, add value as part of the supply chain for local manufacturers, and possibly create their own original products. Over the course of an academic school year, students learn about and perform different job functions in manufacturing, develop essential life-long skills, use advanced manufacturing technologies, and build relationships with local companies. At the same time this work readiness is occurring, capacity for local manufacturers is advancing and the next generation of manufacturing talent is being cultivated. Through this experience, students interact with local manufacturers and learn their requirements – including performance metrics for production, quality, and on-time delivery. Students are getting the opportunity to be mentored, gain expert insight, and develop manufacturing skills. The working relationships established and developed will position the students for future employment opportunities.

All of these regional SRME programs, and the Summit, are supported in part by The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Manufacturing Training-to-Career grant program. There was wonderful feedback from all of the schools, including this follow-up message from the students at St Marys Area High School, “Thank you for the amazing experience! Dutch Manufacturing enjoyed getting to meet other student-run manufacturing enterprises and hearing their stories. We are grateful for this opportunity!”

We’ve already begun planning for next year’s Summit!