MVMC Puts Emphasis on Youth Outreach

The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is working with its academic and industry partners to build a new curriculum that would introduce middle-school students to the concepts, processes and skills used in manufacturing.

“What we’re trying to do is bring manufacturing directly into the classroom,” said Julie Michael Smith, program director for MVMC.

Smith and other MVMC members presented an update on the organization’s programs during its quarterly, all-member meeting March 30 at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

MVMC has been working with Terri Fleming, an engineering and robotics teacher at Trumbull County Career and Technical Center, to develop lessons focused on the history of manufacturing in the community, its present, its future and the skills needed for positions in the field.

“The purpose of this is to provide students with that direct, constant instruction and give them a hands-on activity,” Smith said.

Initially, the curriculum will center around seven lessons, including an assembly activity where students will figure out how to create a product based on a schematic, she said.

Another project in partnership with Foxconn would constitute students building a Lego vehicle where they would switch out materials and parts that are flawed.

Foxconn last year purchased Lordstown Motors Corp.’s Lordstown assembly plant and builds that company’s Endurance electric pickup.  It also plans to build other EVs for different original equipment manufacturers.

“Students would have to go through the quality control process and through an analysis of whether it’s a critical flaw,” Smith said of the Foxconn project.

Also, the curriculum would include segments on the history of manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley, as well as its present and future, Smith said. 

Other portions of the curriculum touch upon

the skills required for a career in manufacturing,

machining and processes, battery technology

and electric vehicles, robotics and additive manufacturing.

This curriculum augments an already robust youth outreach program that MVMC has launched.

One of the most effective ways to reach students is through tours of manufacturing sites, said Allison Engstrom, project manager.

“We’ve been trying to work with manufacturers to host tours,” she said. “Tours are really important.”

Other methods include speaking engagements at career fairs, career days at the area’s middle schools and high schools, as well as the Mahoning Valley’s four tech schools.

“Students get that great interaction with manufacturers,” Engstrom said.  “They can ask questions and learn more about the different career paths that exist.”

MVMC has also deployed a video library developed by the Houck Agency in Youngstown that is hosted on the MVMC website and YouTube channel.

“When it’s all said and done, we’re going to have 35 to 40 two- or three-minute videos that can be shared in the classroom and where students can go on their free time,” Engstrom said.

These videos depict manufacturing processes, how employees go about their jobs, and the opportunities for younger people to move into industry.

Community engagement is vital, she added, and its vital that MVMC and its members promote events that spotlight the virtues of manufacturing.

Upcoming events include In-Demand Jobs Week, May 1-5; Cheers to Beers and Careers at Penguin City Brewing Co. on May 3 – a family event to celebrate National Skilled Trades Day; and career fairs at both Canfield Middle School and Western Reserve schools.

In June, TCTC will host its summer camp. Beginning in late June, the YWCA’s Youngstown and Warren branches will sponsor its summer manufacturing camp. That camp will run from June 26 through July 7 in Youngstown and from July 24 through Aug. 4 in Warren.

MVMC sponsors manufacturing curriculum, plant tours and other activities during the YWCA camps, which are open to middle-school girls.

Also, the Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology will host its popular Summer Manufacturing Institute in mid-July.

While some of these programs are directed at middle- and high-school students, MVMC also has in place programs that target younger kids through community engagement initiatives such as summer manufacturing camps, Engstrom said.

Hands-on activities for younger students include Play-doh extruders, Montessori screwdriver sets, sorting activities and word search and coloring handouts with manufacturing-related themes.

MVMC is a coalition of manufacturers, workforce development specialists, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations. It was founded in 2011 to support career readiness in manufacturing.

Since then, the organization has been responsible for landing important funding that is used for apprenticeship programs, training opportunities and developing career pathways for young people to join the manufacturing workforce.

“We want to get more kids in those classrooms,” said Ryan Engelhardt, plant manager at Brilex and current president of MVMC.

Jim Houck, president of the Houck Agency, took time at the quarterly meeting to tout MVMC’s sponsorship of The Business Journal’s Brain Gain initiative. The sponsorship benefits included video content shared in the classrooms, four feature-length videos promoting in-demand occupations and at least 90 articles or videos last year that included MVMC or its members, he said.

Houck also noted that other marketing efforts are beginning to boost MVMC’s awareness and engagement through social media. “Our LinkedIn following alone over the past 12 months has almost doubled,” he said, as Facebook attention continues to increase.

MVMC’s Facebook engagement rate, for example, last year trended consistently well above the national average, at times more than 20% higher.

At its March 30 meeting, MVMC welcomed new members. They are: AML Industries, Alcon Mechanical, Liberty Steel Industries, Pixel Leadership Group, Rust Belt Recruiting, Tema Roofing and Thomas Steel Strip.