Manufacturers Coalition Touts Summer Camps, Outreach Initiatives

CANFIELD, Ohio – Members of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition are readying a series of summer camps and other outreach initiatives to attract young people to opportunities in manufacturing.

“This is the 10th year of participating together with the Summer Manufacturing Institute,” said Leah Merritt, president and CEO of YWCA Mahoning Valley. “We really wanted to focus on middle-school age, in particular girls, because we see a lack of young women entering the trades and the manufacturing space.”

MVMC hosted an all-member meeting this morning at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

The initiative will feature two summer camps, one that starts June 21 through July 15 in Youngstown, and a second that begins July 5 through July 29 in Warren, Merritt said.

Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology in downtown Youngstown, is also a partner in the institute, Merritt said. The program at Oh Wow! will introduce young people to disciplines such as music engineering and other related careers in manufacturing, she said, as well as incorporating an arts component.

The summer camps will also feature 10 tours of area businesses and organizations with a manufacturing theme, she noted.

“We’re really excited,” Merritt said.

Other outreach initiatives include a manufacturing mobile unit that is managed by the Valley STEM + Me 2 Academy and the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

“We’re very fortunate to have gotten this,” says John Zehentbauer, MCCTC superintendent. The trailer, first launched in 2018, is equipped with machinery that can engage students beginning in the fourth grade.

“They key is to engage students in manufacturing – whatever it is,” Zehentbauer said. The mobile unit provides hands-on equipment such as 3D printers, injection molding, a CNC mill, and even a T-shirt printer.

Also, the unit includes flight and welding simulators, he says.

“We’ve got some pretty cool stuff,” he said.  This year, the mobile unit will travel to the Canfield Fair, festivals and other schools.

Rachael Gensburg, program supervisor at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, said this year is the third year of running its summer manufacturing camps.

“They fill up so fast and we have parents just begging us for more spaces,” she says.

The first of these camps begin next week, Gensburg said, and its focus is on manufacturing, welding and engineering. 

“Our welding camp is a huge hit,” she said, noting that TCTC often receives calls from across the state requesting the school share its curriculum with their districts. The welding camp is open to 7th through 9th graders.

“To have 7th to 9th graders get experience in welding – they love it,” Gensburg said. “Those are the kids who come back and those are the ones who end up working in the field.”

The goal is to actually manufacture a product that they can take with them when the program is finished, she said.

Field trips are also planned for upper middle school students to manufacturing facilities in the region, Gensburg said. Next week, for example, students are to tour MVMC founding company Brilex Industries in Youngstown.

“It really seems to have a lot of impact on their thinking and how that could become a career for them later,” she said of the manufacturing tours.

“Students come into this grade level with very little knowledge of what manufacturing looks like,” Gensburg said. Many, she added, don’t realize that this type of opportunity is available in northeastern Ohio.

“We’re so excited,” Gensburg added. “We have found that if we can get a student’s mindset to change in manufacturing in those lower grade levels, they then begin to think of it even more as a career later on.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.