United Grinding highlights benefits of manufacturing careers to local educators, students in new way

United Grinding, a Swiss company, has its North American headquarters at 2100 United Grinding Blvd. in Miamisburg near Austin Landing.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

A Montgomery County company is working with local schools to show educators, students and their parents how rewarding, progressive and safe manufacturing careers can be.

United Grinding North America in Miamisburg continues to open its doors to area educational leaders, but now it is relying on technology to do so. Held a little more than a week before the start of Manufacturing Month (October) and Manufacturing Day (Oct. 2), a Sept. 22 event live-streamed a virtual tour to 23 Montgomery County school districts.

Aimed at supporting the community’s educational progress and the future of local students, the event was conducted in coordination with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center and designed to bring United Grinding closer to its community as well as its customers.

“More and more ... clocks are ticking, people are retiring. Who are we going to get in, where are we going to get the know-how from?” Markus Stolmar, president and CEO of United Grinding North America Inc., said of the challenge of restocking the company’s workforce. “It’s not like you go out and find somebody who has been trained as a grinding specialist.”

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United Grinding has been doing so in person each October for at least the past three to four years, but having a virtual one allowed the company to highlight how it has “adjusted its operations and approach through technology to expand customer and community engagement in the face of the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19," company officials said.

United Grinding typically secures new employees via young engineers completing short-term or long-term internships while in college. But it’s also attempting to build up a program educating local school teachers, students and parents about what it does in its facility.

“We need to get more young people interested in our industry,” Stolmar said. “It’s not only bankers and lawyers and (other) certain jobs. We need people, too. We need young people, and ... how are you going to get these people if they don’t see your facility, if they don’t come here, if they don’t get the opportunity to at least get a glimpse of it and get an understanding of what we’re doing?”

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Having United Grinding reach out to area districts, even virtually, is an invaluable resource, according to Bryan Stewart, workforce director of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, which provides an array of educational services to 16 public school districts in Montgomery County and more than 90 educational entities in multiple counties across the Greater Dayton region.

“Whether a district has a junior/senior pathway for advanced manufacturing or a pathway for students who want to become engineers, this is just the challenge of our time,” Stewart said. “How do we address the skills gap?"

Just as the company, and others, are faced with the challenge of finding the right employee, so too do local K-12 school systems face the task of getting students to be ready for such opportunities, he said.

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That includes creating internships, job shadowing possibilities and even virtual tours, Stewart said.

Founded in 1984, United Grinding, a Swiss company, is a leading manufacturer of abrasive grinding, erosion, laser ablation and optical measuring machines. It has nearly 200 employees across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In 2017, it consolidated operations at its new, 110,000-square-foot North American headquarters at 2100 United Grinding Blvd. in Miamisburg.

Virtual events, including the one held by United Grinding, are constructed around a simple premise of showing “what contemporary manufacturing is all about," Angelia Erbaugh, president of the Dayton Region Manufacturing Association.

“It dispels, at least for the educators who are older and have a negative impression that negative impression and it instills in the younger folks, in the students, that this is a cool place, that this is cool stuff,” Erbaugh said. “That maybe I, too, can do this and then pursue education and training opportunities that allow them to do well in advanced manufacturing.”

A recording of the virtual event can be used during Manufacturing Month and beyond to highlight opportunities in the profession, she said.

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DRMA, which has approximately 200 manufacturers in its membership across the region, encourages companies to host open houses, promotes to schools the availability of those open houses, and handles much of the coordinating between the two, she said.

United Grinding is “kind of our go-to member," Erbaugh said.

”They’re right there on I-75 with that brand new building that people can see, so it gets some attention but also, inside that building, it’s just absolutely incredible," she said. “It is the showcase, it is the story for advanced manufacturing, so we love what United Grinding does when they step up to the plate and say ‘Yeah, we’ll help with this whole career awareness.'”

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