By Leslie Rylke
Governor Tom Wolf announced this week new funding to expand the statewide ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ student video contest. The grants were approved for the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) in the Lehigh Valley and the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC).
“This administration has placed an incredible emphasis on developing Pennsylvania’s manufacturing workforce,” Governor Wolf said. “One of the best ways to do that is by getting the next generation excited about these careers. The ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ student video contest has steadily grown over the years. We’re excited to see it continue to grow in the years ahead supported by this funding.”
The ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ contest is dedicated to changing perceptions and attitudes in Pennsylvania about advanced manufacturing careers. The contest pairs teams of middle school students with local manufacturers. The student teams then create a video profile that shows what the manufacturers produce, how they make their products, and why the manufacturer is a great place to work.
The contest grew from only one contest in the Lehigh Valley to a series of 15 contests statewide in this upcoming year. These new grants will provide $134,200 to DVIRC and $169,000 to MRC to further expand the contest to more schools, more students, and more manufacturers in the years ahead.
Locally, the ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ student video contest for Chester and Delaware Counties is organized by the Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties, an initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). The program is in its third year and this year’s contest has paired 16 area middle schools with manufacturers to craft videos that showcase the “cool factor” of manufacturing. An awards ceremony will be held on March 6 at Penn State Great Valley.
Last year, two teams were represented at the first state-level competition – the team from Lionville Middle School and ONExia, Inc. and the team from Springton Lake Middle School and Pennsylvania Machine Works. The Lionville/ONExia team ended up taking home the third place honors at the awards ceremony in Harrisburg.
“Over the past three years we have seen an increase in engagement in our community surrounding this project,” said Patti VanCleave, Manager of STEM Innovation programs at CCEDC. “We had around 4,000 votes in the viewers’ choice category the first year and that skyrocketed to 47,000 last year.” “That ‘cool’ exposure for the manufacturers in our area is priceless.”
“Many misperceptions exist about today’s manufacturing careers,” said Ralf Weiser, Manager of Project Management at Aerzen USA. “Manufacturing has come back and is poised for even more sustainable growth. We are all missing out on attracting suitable high school and even college candidates because many misperceptions exist about the manufacturing workplaces. The average manufacturing career takes place in clean, well lit, and engaging workplaces. Pay and career growth with apprenticeship and even post-secondary education programs are additional above average benefits in this industry.”
Weiser also noted that “the video contest helps highlight these facts and also provides exposure to real life examples of how this can work for the student. Manufacturers benefit from this event two-fold: It boosts employee morale working with young students while highlighting their own careers. Also, they just may bump into future team members during the making of the videos. The WSCM contest is mutually rewarding culminating in the awards ceremony that helps engage the surrounding communities – we have got it made in Chester and Delaware Counties.”
Funding was provided from the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career grant. The Training-to-Career grant is one of three components of Governor Wolf’s Manufacturing PA initiative, along with Industrial Resource Centers and the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Innovation Program, that was launched in October 2017.
This initiative ensures that training leads not simply to any job, but to careers that provide higher pay and opportunities for advancement. Working with DCED’s strategic partners, including Industrial Resource Centers (IRCs), Pennsylvania’s colleges, universities, technical schools, and non-profit organizations, this initiative fosters collaboration and partnerships to accelerate technology advancement, encourage innovation and commercialization, and build a 21st century workforce.
The ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ contest also aligns with Governor Wolf’s PAsmart initiative, which invests $30 million to build the next generation of
Pennsylvania’s workforce. The initiative includes $20 million for expanding STEM and computer science education and $7 million for supporting apprenticeships across the commonwealth.
For more information about the Wolf Administration’s commitment to manufacturing, visit the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) website. To watch videos from the teams in Chester and Delaware Counties, visit the ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ contest website. Check out previous VISTA.Today coverage of the contest HERE.