Opportunity, productivity, advancement and diversity were all words used to describe several manufacturing facilities during a recent All About Manufacturing workshop hosted by OSU Institute of Technology’s MidAmerica Industrial Park Advanced Training Center.
The workshop participants, 23 educators and career service professionals, observed and toured several facilities at MAIP in an effort to help change the grim and stale perception of America’s manufacturing industry. Prior to the tours, most confessed to describing manufacturing as “dirty.”
Evett Barham said her idea of manufacturing totally changed after attending the workshop.
“It’s a complete paradigm shift. I just didn’t know about the opportunities out here,” said Barham, a leadership teacher at Pryor High School.
One of the goals of All About Manufacturing is to change the perceptions of teacher and advisors so they better relay to young people what manufacturing is, how important it is to the country and that it’s a viable career path.
“It’s such an awareness issue,” said Scott Fry, director of OSUIT-MAIP. “These workshops advocate manufacturing and hopefully change that mindset. We’ve had that image of manufacturing for so long that people don’t pursue those careers or suggest those careers.”
OSUIT-MAIP has hosted these workshops since 2008, holding two every summer with up to 25 participants in each workshop. Each participant also receives a $150 stipend.
Those attending the workshops this year visited Orchid Paper Products, GRDA Kerr Dam, American Castings and Cherokee Nation Industries all located in MidAmerica Industrial Park.
Pam Devers teaches chemistry and physics at Pryor High School and attended All About Manufacturing for the second year in a row.
“I used to work at one of these plants. I’ve had family who worked at these plants, but I didn’t know about OSUIT and the degree programs it offered,” Devers said. “It’s a lot more technical than it used to be.”
Barham and Devers said a typical four-year liberal arts college isn’t for every high school student so knowing about the other options available, including OSUIT-MAIP, is invaluable.
“We have a lot of kids who want to work, but don’t have the resources,” Barham said, so it’s up to teachers to point them in the right direction. “They really do rely on us as mentors.”
For Fry, the workshops serve as a way to build relationships between teachers, school systems and industries.
“What we are lacking is a qualified workforce. Our manufacturers are suffering and it’s a boon for those that have those skills,” he said. “Eighteen-year-olds don’t know what exists in the world in terms of hands-on, good paying jobs. You create that awareness when we build those relationships with educators.”