CHAMPION - Only about 8 percent of the students in a five-county area want to pursue a career in manufacturing, according to a study released Tuesday morning.
That number is on par with nationwide trends, but it won't be enough to fill the 13 percent of jobs in the local region that are manufacturing related.
High school junior Andrew Larrison of Hartford and about two dozen of his classmates in the welding program at Trumbull Career and Technical Center are among those expressing interest in the sector.
''My grandpa was a welder and also my uncle was a welder,'' Larrison said, noting their careers played a big role in his decision to follow the same path. Larrison said he knows skilled welders are paid well and job security should not be a problem with the oil and natural gas boom locally.
Larrison and his classmates sat in on a presentation Tuesday morning at the school unveiling the results of a recent study of more than 1,000 students ages 12 to 18 in a five-county area about their beliefs regarding manufacturing jobs. The study looked at Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania and was conducted by the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, the Manufacturing Industry Partnership of Lawrence and Mercer counties and Prodigal Media Co.
Ironically, the study also determined that 32 percent of the students said they believed the greatest benefit to a manufacturing career is that the sector is "booming" and would provide a good salary supporting the lifestyle they want.
Colleen Chamberlain, left, of Xaloy Inc., of Boardman, left, speaks to welding students at Trumbull Career and Technical Center Tuesday morning about the need for workers in the manufacturing industry. Also addressing the students are Kyle Kiraly, center, of Kiraly Tool and Die, and Dale Forester, right, of Star Manufacturing in Vienna. Photo by Brenda J. Linert
The survey showed that students, like Larrison, who have family members in the manufacturing industry are more likely than others to enter the field.
In an attempt to grow the number of workers, Eric Karmecy, assistant director of the Workforce Development for the West Central Job Partnership in Western Pennsylvania, said a recently allocated $6 million grant will be put to use training and educating potential workers. The grant will help fund things like internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and other job experience in the field, he said.
TCTC was chosen to host Tuesday's event because the school offers more than 30 manufacturing-related courses. Beginning next year the high school will add a new Manufacturing Technology program, said TCTC supervisor Mary Flint. The classes will be taught by instructor Todd VanOrman at the neighboring Trumbull campus of Kent State University.
VanOrman said he has spent much time speaking with area manufacturers about what students need to know. Interestingly, he said soft skills, like math, came up frequently in those conversations.
The program will focus on things like auto CAD, blueprint reading, basic welding, machining, cast metals, basic electricity and more.
''We are going to make it a 'jack-of-all-trades' type class,'' VanOrman said.