Jeff Gentile, right, a manufacturing services technician, explains his job at Miamisburg’s United Grinding North America to visiting students on Manufacturing Day Friday. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Photo: Thomas Gnau
Photo: Thomas Gnau

Manufacturing Day opens doors to students across the Miami Valley

Manufacturers opened their doors Friday to students they hope will be their next generation of workers, trying to show them that a future awaits the creators of tomorrow.

When it comes to manufacturing, the “three Ds” — dirty, difficult and dangerous — no longer apply, said Steve Jacobson, president and chief executive of United Grinding North America, as dozens of students swarmed around him in his Miamisburg facility.

“You’re going to be exposed to the latest and greatest technologies,” Jacobson said.

Nationally, the first Friday of October is set aside as a day for manufacturers to host school field trips from local schools. It is part of an ongoing effort by the firms to communicate to parents, teachers and students that manufacturing has a future in the U.S. with jobs that can pay well.

Nationally last year, 275,000 people participated in about 3,000 “MFG Day” events across North America. Dayton employers have participated for each of the past seven years, since the day’s inception.

In Ohio, nearly 220 companies took part Friday, according to a web site tracking events nationally. Honda said more than 2,000 students visited company facilities in Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama, which annually produce more than 3 million engines and 1.24 million cars and trucks.

Last year in the Dayton area, 51 Dayton Region Manufacturing Association (DRMA)-member companies opened their doors to school field trips, with 64 companies total hosting open houses. About 4,300 students from 60 schools and five home-school groups took part in and around Dayton.

This year, DRMA sought have 55 -member open houses, and association leaders were confident they would hit that number.

“It’s exposing the next generation to some of the paths they can explore,” Jacobson said.

Starting and average wages vary by occupation and company. But according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released in July 2019, Dayton-area machinists in 2018 had a mean or average hourly wage of $21.58 or $44,890 a year.

United Grinding has been in Miamisburg since 1995, but the company opened its latest facility just two years ago off Austin Boulevard. Here, the maker of high precision grinding, erosion, laser ablation and measuring machines shows off its newest products. Customers in aerospace, automotive and health care — among other fields — test those machines with some of their toughest problems, Jacobson said.

“We make parts that can be put into your body,” Kevis Mitchell, United Grinding’s facility maintenance manager, told a group of Miami Valley Career Technology Center students on a tour of the plant.

Mitchell showed students an early 20th century grinding machine kept in the lobby. He noted that today’s machines are far more sophisticated.

“We are so much further than that,” Mitchell told students.

Today, manufacturing can mean coming to grips with augmented reality and artificial intelligence, Jacobson said.

“It’s going to be a completely different world,” he said. “These things are happening so much faster.”

Margie Lairson, a member of the Northridge Local Schools Board of Education, pronounced herself “gung-ho” on Manufacturing Day while visiting United Grinding.

Lairson is a veteran of Hobart and Dynamic Technology companies herself. She thinks too many students believe there is no career path other than college.

“I’m saying, get in, get hired, get manufacturing (experience), and they will train you,” she said. “You can accomplish this without a college degree.”

In Kettering, machining and prototype producer Starwin Industries also hosted students Friday. The company has 40 employees in its shop off Woodman Drive, having hired three straight out of high school in the past year alone, said Rick Little, Starwin president.

The company makes prototypes and performs precision machining and measuring work for NASA, G.E. Aviation and other customers. Today, business is good.

“We’re swamped right now,” Little said. “We’re buried.”

Starwin played host to a group of Centerville High School ITOP (Integrated Transition Options Program) students. The students explore different career fields in part by volunteering to work in various places.

“It’s just seeing what’s in the real world,” said Toni Cardamone, the teacher overseeing the program.

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