YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A collaboration between America Makes and the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio will forge new career pathways for Mahoning Valley students interested in advanced manufacturing.
More than 40 area educators and school administrators from 14 regional school districts visited America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, Feb. 17 for a tour of its Youngstown center and to hear about the educational opportunities for their students.
“The goal is to talk about how we can leverage some of our national best practices into local classrooms to support not only educators, but also to impact their students and talk about career pathways and talent pipelines for advanced manufacturing, specifically additive manufacturing,” said Josh Cramer, education and workforce development director for America Makes.
The collaboration will enable the ESC to develop STEM curriculum for K-12 students in its member districts, said Robert Eggleston, ESC lead career counselor. Students will get hands-on experience with STEM activities so they graduate with advanced manufacturing skills and industry-recognized credentials they can take directly into the workplace.
Credentials are built for and validated by partners in the America Makes network, including those in industry and defense, Cramer explained. Working with area employers will introduce students to local jobs they can obtain with the skills they gain.
The partnership aligns with America Makes’ “K through Grey” approach to building a national STEM talent pipeline, by engaging with kindergarten students to adults, Cramer said. That approach applies to building the pipeline as well as upskilling incumbent workers, he said.
“We know there’s a skills gap in advanced manufacturing,” Cramer said. “To tackle that, we have to work on both sides of that. We need to inspire and create awareness in youth and their parents to enter these pathways.”
Partnering with the ESC will allow America Makes to inspire local students to pursue these types of careers and create awareness of job opportunities, he said.
Students are being inspired by math and science at an early age, “probably around second or third grade. So it’s very important that we’re talking about these careers and opportunities, and the competencies that are needed in industry,” as well as the steps toward these careers, he said.
“Many of these careers don’t always require a college degree,” Cramer said. “These are excellent opportunities right out of high school with appropriate training in high school, which is why we’re working with these teachers to build these programs.”
During the tour of America Makes, educators were provided an information packet of programs they can introduce at all grade levels.
Middle school programs include 11 microlearning modules with a series of short, interactive lessons to introduce students to basic additive manufacturing elements.
Modules include an introduction to CAD (computer-aided drawing) software, digital design, creating and exporting 3D designs, 3D printing and cybersecurity.
Students also learn to work with Avi, a small four-wheeled vehicle that they program to complete missions. Students will create, build and print Avi’s brackets and fixtures to hold its sensors.
For high school students, America Makes’ Additive Edge national outreach program trains them to identify real-world problems and come up with an additive manufacturing solution.
The curriculum teaches students to build a business model around the product and pitch the solution to a panel of judges, incorporating technology, entrepreneurship and education/career pathways objectives.
Skills gained also fill traditional manufacturing jobs. These include design and manufacturing engineers, operators and maintenance technicians, process engineers, software engineers, simulation specialists, materials engineers and quality roles.
Valley educators and counselors will be trained in advanced and additive manufacturing pathways and deployment of America Makes’ Toolkit for Encouraging Additive Manufacturing in Middle School, or TEAMMSS, program.
In addition to programs embedded in the schools, America Makes will host events to bring students to its building.
“We will have hundreds of students come and join us to learn the journey of additive manufacturing” and how it applies to the growth of Youngstown, Cramer said.
The initiative is part of the America Makes Education and Workforce Development Roadmap, which has executed more than 125 projects since 2012, and engaged more than 13,000 individuals in 2021 alone, according to documents provided by America Makes.
All programs, materials and training are provided to Mahoning Valley schools free of charge. The organization is also working with the ESC and the school districts on implementing the curriculum.
“This is our mission,” Cramer said. “This is our dedication to our local community. We’ve collaborated with a number of partners to bring these, at no cost, to support these programs for launch and deployment in schools.”
The ESC has reached out to its member districts that would be interested in participating in the program, “and the response was phenomenal,” Eggleston said.
“For the ESC career counseling team, our biggest goal is to just spread the word of what’s out there and bring these opportunities to the schools,” he said. “And this is another great one.”
For some of the educators, it was their first time visiting America Makes.
Tony DelBoccio, principal of East Palestine High School, said without the ESC building the bridge between America Makes and the schools, there wouldn’t be many other ways to bring this type of opportunity to the students.
“It’s a nice asset we’d like to take advantage of,” DelBoccio said.
The collaboration is a passion project for Cramer, who was a STEM classroom instructor for about a decade in Pittsburgh and carries about 26 industry certifications.
“I had the blessing of seeing that light-bulb moment; having an opportunity to see a student that was inspired when learning was real and relevant,” he said.
Sensing an opportunity to affect students on a grander scale, he spent the last 13 years building advanced manufacturing and additive programs across the United States.
“Helping them solve the skills gap is a big passion of ours that we drive here every day as well,” he said.
Pictured: Todd Spurgeon, additive manufacturing project engineer with America Makes, leads a tour of area educators and school administrators at the center.