According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio is the third largest manufacturing state. Shelby County, located to the north of Dayton, has more manufacturing jobs per capita than any other county in Ohio.
April Vanover, workforce development and community outreach lead for FastLane, a University of Dayton program, said exposing students to jobs in manufacturing is vital for the continuation of the Ohio workforce. In talking to employers, getting enough qualified workers is a huge problem.
“Everyone will say it’s their pain point number one or pain point number two,” Vanover said. “Talent is the biggest issue.”
Getting students involved with manufacturing early and showing them what a job in manufacturing can be like can get them into the pipeline for a job in manufacturing, Vanover said.
Eddie Williams, a freshman at Shawnee High School, said the event made him consider working in manufacturing.
“I think maybe I might get like a small job, like maybe welding or 3D printing,” Williams said.
Julie Huckaba, the FlexFactor project manager, said students who are involved in FlexFactor learn basic business skills and research during their projects. They must come up with a problem to solve, solve the problem and figure out how to manufacture and market the idea.
Rosie Matthies, a Shawnee High school math and engineering teacher, works with FlexFactor for her students. She said the project-based learning worked well with her curriculum and helped engage the whole class as it helps students play to their strengths in a project.
The partnership with Sinclair has also been strong, she said, and Huckaba is always willing to help with student questions.
“For a lot of our classes, it’s a way to, again, pull in some of the skill sets that we know students need to develop during their high school years,” Matthies said.