Manufacturing Summit Focuses on Partnerships with Educators

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When a group from Youngstown applied for the city to become the first site of America Makes, it was the partnerships formed before the idea was born that sealed the decision to bring it here.

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute has its offices directly behind the Youngstown Business Incubator.

“If you look at who we were competing against and where the other hubs were put after Youngstown, we had no right in the world to win that,” said Youngstown State University Provost Martin Abraham. “But we were better than everyone else because we had already been doing it for many years.”

At the Rebuilding America: Northeastern Ohio/ Western Pennsylvania Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways Summit on Tuesday, Abraham – dean of YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics when the campaign was launched – said it was the partnerships that helped manufacturing reach its current state and help the industry into the future.

“In a lot of places, people come together because there’s a specific opportunity to do something,” he explained. “In the Mahoning Valley, we’ve come together because we know we can succeed together. Then, when an opportunity comes along, it’s just natural for us all to be working as a partnership.”

As further evidence of the success of partnerships in the region, Jessica Borza presented the fact that in Ashland and in Erie, Pa., the Oh-Penn model is being replicated almost point-for-point.

Borza is executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and sector partnership coordinator of the Oh-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative.

“The state is looking at what we’re doing and what our keys to success are. We’ve also been recognized by the governor’s office as a model for workforce transformation,” she said. “The eye is on us and they look to us for input as they go.”

The ties between YSU and area manufacturers have continued to develop since Abraham became provost last year, even in unexpected areas, he said. Last school year, students at YSU enrolled in education classes began mentoring second-grade students in city schools and this year will also teach third-graders. Almost every class in those two grades will have a YSU student teacher.

“It all starts with the very youngest of our students and their success in reading,” Abraham said. “If they can’t read, they’ll never learn how to do math, never graduate [from] high school, never be a YSU student and never be a successful worker in the businesses that we want to grow in the Valley. If we don’t start at the beginning, we have no hope for the future.”

Tom Humphries, president and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, also put an emphasis on students in area schools getting an early start on manufacturing education.

“The one thing that we really have to do to is reach grade schools,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to help youth understand the importance of manufacturing and the change that’s gone on in the industry.”

For Oh-Penn, one focus of education has been establishing certificate programs for students at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield and Trumbull Career & Technical Center, Warren. Such programs have evolved into pushing students and workers to earn more than one credential, Borza noted.

“The beauty [of training students for] credentials is that it allows them to continue to build on their skills as they move through their career pathway,” she said. “You have credentials that will validate basic skills and safety processes and then you can start to specialize in things like welding or with the Society of Engineers as kind of that apex.”

Government support of these training programs has increased, added Eric Karmecy, a project manager for Oh-Penn, as reflected by a 26.3% increase in public funding over the past three years.

“Certainly, there’s been an increase in the public awareness of family-sustaining careers offered in the region,” Borza continued. “There’s been a lot of work done to make sure curriculums are in alignment with what manufacturers tell us is needed.”

YSU is working with area manufacturers to provide STEM students with internships. The hope, Abraham said, is that the internships will give students experience and lead to permanent jobs.

Pictured: Darrell R. Wallace, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Youngstown State University, discusses additive manufacturing at the day-long summit.

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