Ohio Summer Manufacturing Camps Build Foundation for Careers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Varada Bhide, chief operating officer of the YWCA of the Mahoning Valley, thinks about her own children’s future, she hopes they will take a serious look at careers in manufacturing.

Bhide’s children, as well as many others in the Valley, have spent recent summers building or creating their own car, boat, digital alarm clock and hand sanitizer. Even the projects that did not succeed became learning opportunities.

“Every successful or unsuccessful design project has given my kids a valuable lesson in life. It has provided them a strong foundation for future learning and insight into the manufacturing industry,” Bhide said.

Bhide assisted U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Ryan Augsburger, president of the Ohio Manufacturing Association, in launching the 2023 summer manufacturing camps with a press conference Wednesday. 

What started in the Valley 11 years ago has not only survived COVID-19, but has blossomed into at least 36 camps being organized this summer in 26 counties across the state and offered for students in grades four through eight. Brown said that is the largest number of camps yet, and he believes the idea will continue to grow.

“As a manufacturing camp organizer, I want to say briefly that manufacturing jobs are not what they used to be,” Bhide said. “I think it’s important to expose children and their parents to the latest career tracks available to them within the manufacturing industry. These jobs typically offer higher living wages, and that is important to have a good quality of life.”

Brown agreed, noting it is important for students and their parents to learn about modern manufacturing, which he said has for too long been connected with “dirty and dusty old jobs and the outdated, offensive term Rust Belt.”

Brown said the Rust Belt term demeans workers and what they do, and emphasized that with high-tech manufacturing plants across the state, “we’re burying that term Rust Belt.”

“Technology in the future, as it has been for many generations, will be invented in Ohio and manufactured in Ohio. These talented, curious students are an integral part of that future,” Brown said.

In past summers, students have done hands-on robotics, attended the aerospace engineering institute, built model homes out of recycled materials, experimented with wind turbines and built their own smart clocks.

“One of the things I hear from parents … is how they help get their kids interested in careers in their own communities,” Brown said. “Almost every parent wants their son or daughter to stay nearby when they grow up and produce grandchildren for them. Kids can go where they want, of course, but they should not have to leave town or leave the state to find a good-paying or rewarding job.”

Augsburger pointed out Ohio is the third-leading manufacturing state in the country, behind only California and Texas. The Midwest and Great Lakes region is great at making things, he said, and manufacturing jobs offer, on average, a $70,000 annual salary plus benefits, and can be obtained without college debt.

“Right now, Ohio is writing the next chapter of its manufacturing legacy – and this will be our most exciting chapter yet. But to make this a reality, we will also need an adequate workforce,” Augsburger said.

He noted that the summer camp program helps to get students interested in manufacturing at an earlier age, as well as their parents who help to influence them in their future choices. The camps frequently partner with local manufacturers and those groups affiliated with manufacturing, taking the flavor of the region and opportunities available.

Locally, Bhide said the YWCA has partnered with the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology and the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition. Even during COVID-19, the camp continued by moving to a two-week online opportunity.

Throughout the years, the Summer Manufacturing Institute Camp has offered students the link between the math and science they learn in school and a future career. Through the camp, which began in 2013, students have gone on manufacturing tours, participated in STEM projects and learned about teamwork, leadership skills, attention to detail and perseverance. 

This year, the Y-Girls STEAM Ahead camp is scheduled from June 26-July 21 in Youngstown and July 10-Aug. 4 in Warren. Sponsorships are available to help students unable to pay for the camp.

Bhide said even if children do not choose manufacturing as a future career, at least they will be able to make an informed decision about their futures.

When the dates for all the camps across the state are available, they will be posted HERE.

Locally, information about the YWCA Y-Girls STEAM Ahead Camp for girls is available HERE

Pictured at top: A 2022 summer manufacturing camp activity is seen in this image captured from video.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.