Event Encourages Students to ‘Manufacture Your Future’

LISBON, Ohio — Letting Columbiana County students see the inside of eight local industrial plants, organizers of the Manufacturing Your Future event provided a glimpse of many career paths at companies eager to hire them in the future.

About 90 sophomore students from nine high schools across Columbiana County got to walk the concrete floors at locations including Ventra, Hickey Metal Fabrication, Compco, CTM Labeling Systems, TruCut Inc. and Humtown Products. The students were immersed in the sights and sounds as manufacturing happened around them, watching as industrial cranes lifted and moved a 150,000-pound piece of metal or as workers used technology to create precision parts.

Students saw both large and small products created by a variety of processes.

 “I think it’s always good when you can expose students to things they’ve never seen or might not be aware of,” said Jeremy Corbisello, assistant superintendent at the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center.

The event, hosted by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, was organized by the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center along with the Business Advisory Council of the Columbiana County Educational Service Center, as a way to provide students with a picture of manufacturing careers and the CCCTC training programs that could help them qualify for entry-level jobs.

“Manufacturing needs young people,” Matt Joing, vice president of operations at Butech Bliss explained to students as he led a tour of the plant. “We’ve got plenty of work coming. We’ve got plenty to do. We need more young people to get into the mix.”

Joing reminded the students about the demographics of the workforce they saw at the Salem plant, which specializes in manufacturing equipment for processing steel and metals. As these employees age and continue to retire, there will be even more openings for new employees, people who like to think and problem solve, while not performing the same tasks day after day.

“We do not have enough young people like you coming into the machining trades,” Joing said. “This company has been here for a long time. We’re going to be here for a long time and we don’t have enough young people moving up through the pipeline.”

Johnson (R-Marietta) explained to students his career path, including how he ended up in the U.S. Air Force, which helped him get his college education, but also ended up in the manufacturing field before politics. His 46-year-old son, who went to college, ended up not liking working in the business field and is now working with his hands installing fiber optic lines across the country.

Johnson reminded students that there are nearly 11 million unfilled jobs across the country, including many right here.

“(The) labor participation rate is down to around 60%,” said Johnson. “That means if you look around this room, four out of 10 Americans are riding in the wagon instead of helping to push or pull the wagon. That’s tough on the rest of us who are working. Our economy, our country was not designed with our people sitting on the sideline.”

Johnson said Americans are engineered to be problem solvers and have brought technology and innovation to the rest of the world. He challenged the students to continue that tradition and to think about getting involved in manufacturing.

“It’s not necessarily dirt, dark or loud work,” Johnson said, citing as an example the $20 billion Intel plant to be built in Central Ohio, where the next generation of semi-conductor microprocessors will be manufactured in a meticulously clean environment.

Johnson joined a group of students touring MAC Trailer Manufacturing where Dave Russell, safety director, showed the process of building some of the company’s flatbed and tank trailers starting from pieces of aluminum through to the inspections of the end products. The students watched as equipment and technology aided the employees throughout various stages.

MAC Trailer employs about 180 at the Salem plant in a variety of jobs including engineering, assemblers, welders, warehouse, sales, marketing, human resources and management. Welders can start at $20 per hour and make more depending on training and experience. Employees later can expand their knowledge and move up to the level of master trailer builder.

Russell explained MAC Trailer also teams up with local career centers and training programs so students can go to school and start gaining experience through work programs during part of the day or in the summer. There are bonuses for perfect attendance, employee incentives, recognition and appreciation events, as well as other benefits.

“I think we have a lot of potential interest in the manufacturing field,” said Russell after the tour. “Once they see the true meaning of what manufacturing means for this community, it will change a lot of their perspectives for their futures.”

Russell said he likes that the Manufacturing Your Future program chose to bring students out to some of the most talented manufacturing companies in the area, leaders in their industries like MAC Trailer, Ventra and Hickey.

Mike Weir, a career counselor in Lisbon Schools, joined some of the tours. He said the event lets students know there are options for their futures outside of traditional college.

“It’s about giving students a birds-eye view,” said Weir.

When students returned from the tours, some said they were not aware about the number of robots at Ventra or that CCCTC has robots in the precision machining program, said Corbisello. Another student said he had never considered welding before today, but now he is interested in pursuing welding at CCCTC.

“I think just awareness with students, because if they just stay in the walls of their high school they don’t know what’s there,” Corbisello said, noting it was the same for him.

Growing up, members of his family worked as a mail carrier, teachers and at Summitville Tile. “I thought those were my only choices, so I went into teaching. An event like today would have opened my eyes and provided me some additional exposure.”

Corbisello said some students, even those who have a family member in manufacturing, may not know the size and scope of what happens at local manufacturers.

After the students left Butech Joing said his company likes to partner for events lthat can help students realize possible paths for their futures.

“The career center is not just a place to go if you’re not interested in college or you are not sure what you are doing,” Joing said. “It can be a way to get you into a career, a path to lucrative, rewarding careers.”

Pictured at top: Matt Joing, vice president of operations at Butech Bliss, gives a tour to a group of students for the Manufacturing Your Future event.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.