Manufacturing Day highlights, promotes industry’s evolution

Andy Gretsinger wants to explore areas of manufacturing that could be the best fit for him.

The 18-year-old senior at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center has his sights set on a career in mechanical engineering.

“I have a few ideas about the areas I’d like to specialize in,” he said.

On Friday, the Boardman teen will have an opportunity to examine the industry more closely when he and a group of his classmates visit the General Motors Assembly Plant in Lordstown to observe Manufacturing Day. It will be his first visit to the plant where some 1,200 robots are used to produce the top-selling Chevrolet Cruze. The plant has 23.5 miles of conveyers, representing the largest single line manufacturing facility in the world.

The visit is among several activities scheduled across the Valley and the country to recognize what has become a day to promote and educate people about manufacturing. “I think it will help me see if I really like that field,” said Gretsinger. “Seeing people who actually work in manufacturing, I think, will give me a better idea of what they do every day.”

The day also will serve as the formal launch of the center’s partnership with the plant. Lordstown engineers and members of the United Auto Workers locals 1112 and 1714, which represent most of the plant’s more than 4,000 workers, will serve as mentors supporting the Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative, commonly known as RAMTEC, throughout the academic year.

“We think it’s important to expose young people to manufacturing, which is the backbone of our economy, especially in this part of the country,” said Tom Mock, plant spokesman. “This is a great opportunity to expose the next generation of workers to one of our most important industries and to help prepare them for these jobs.”

Manufacturing Day is the first Friday in October, but it can be observed anytime, organizers said.

Last year, the plant partnered with Youngstown State University to provide several students with an overview of the facility.

This year, GM agreed to partner with MCCTC to help the center with its RAMTEC effort. The center received a $500,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Education’s Straight A Fund that was established to help Ohio schools launch creative new ideas for improving education.

Ron Iarussi, MCCTC superintendent, said the the program gives students an opportunity to explore ways robots are used in manufacturing and how to operate, maintain and repair them. He said students can receive the training they need to fill manufacturing jobs, which are expected to increase, while GM and other companies can count on a future of qualified workforce.

“This really is a win-win for GM and for us,” Iarussi said. “We’re in the business of preparing students for occupations in manufacturing. GM uses robots to do a lot of labor including in the paint booths and weld shops. This is a great experience for these students to see how it all works together.”

Manufacturing Day

Cris Young, a third generation owner of an industrial supply company, is hoping to inspire another generation of manufacturers.

For the past three years her business, Hudson Fasteners in Youngstown, has sponsored Manufacturing Day events. This year’s event, “Opening Doors & Minds,” held in partnership with America Makes, will feature a presentation by former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and exhibits by various manufacturers, local 3-D printing companies and the Youngstown State University STEM College.

“Manufacturing means a whole lot to me,” Young said. “If companies aren’t happy with what we do, they don’t buy from us.”

She explained the goal is to “change perceptions many young folks heading into the workforce have about manufacturing” and to raise awareness of the industry’s opportunities and importance.

She said a primary goal of Manufacturing Day has always been to get young people motivated to learn more about modern manufacturing.

“By opening our doors and letting people see firsthand what we do, we are educating them about what manufacturing really is and how, through advances in technology, it has evolved,” Young said. “It’s important to share the great work taking place in the Valley, Ohio and across the country.

“Manufacturing isn’t the dirty job your parents had. It’s not the same industry it was 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. There’s cleaner technology now, computers and a bunch of different things that have advanced manufacturing, a lot of changes. It’s definitely not the same as it used to be.”

By the numbers

An estimated 49,000 job openings in manufacturing are expected in northeastern Ohio by 2025, according to the Economic Indicator released last month by Cleveland-based economic development organization Team NEO.

Despite a drop in the number of manufacturing jobs in the past decade, the region is doing more manufacturing with fewer people, said Jacob Duritsky, Team NEO’s vice president of strategy and research.

Other projections in the quarterly report, which focuses on manufacturing, through 2025 indicate continued increases in productivity across the 18-county northeast Ohio region Team NEO covers. Those increases will influence manufacturing employment, Duritsky said, noting that as manufacturing sectors continue to diversify, opportunities for employment are expected to become more varied and specialized.

Manufacturing productivity grew 92 percent from 1990 to 2015. It is expected to increase 73 percent by 2025 as activity continues to transitions from traditional to advanced manufacturing, the report shows. Computer manufacturing is expected to increase 104 percent.

“We’re seeing changes in the ways we produce,” Duritsky said.

Since 1970, there has been a shift from traditional manufacturing sectors, such as iron steel mills and foundries, to advanced manufacturing sectors including higher value-add products such as plastics, he noted.

In the Youngstown-Warren metropolitan area, there are about 1,000 manufacturers that employ nearly 30,000 people, said Sarah Boyarko, senior vice president of economic development for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber. That number is down about 10,000, from 40,100 in 2005.

Fourteen percent of the the area’s jobs are in manufacturing.

Boyarko said manufacturing accounts for about 19.3 percent of the metropolitan area’s gross product.

Nationwide, there are 12.3 million people working in manufacturing, accounting for 9 percent of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, calling manufacturing the “lifeblood of our economy, and the backbone of the middle class,” introduced legislation along with U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-New York, to create a U.S. chief manufacturing officer. Ryan said chief would coordinate manufacturing-related policies and activities across agencies and develop a national manufacturing strategy designed to revitalize the industry, spur economic growth and expand U.S. competitiveness.”

Duritsky said overall the region has diversified and looks more like the U.S. economy as a whole, seeing growth in industries such as health care.

Still, he noted, manufacturing continues to play a significant role in the region’s economy.

Boyarko said some of the industry’s decline since 1970 can be attributed to advances in technology, automation, internal restructuring and workforce outsourcing.

But those shifts have also created more diversity in the industry, resulting in new workforce initiatives and training opportunities.

Canyon Paterson, 18, an MCCTC senior, who also will be visiting GM Lordstown for the first time on Friday, said growing up with technology has helped him and other students like him prepare for what’s ahead in the workforce.

“This is what we’re used to,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of advances and changes in technology. I don’t expect that to be any different working in manufacturing, as an engineer or machinist.”

vshank@tribtoday.com