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Manufacturing provides new opportunities for Ohio students

Ohio’s high school STEM educators know the value of their curriculum in helping prepare their students for the next step. Classroom learning provides the foundation for career success but many high school teachers and their students realize there is no substitute for a paid internship with a business or industry. And, it’s often a win-win situation, with the student gaining real-world experience, valuable work and life skills and a paycheck, while the company fills a workforce gap and enjoys an extended look at a possible future full-time employee. With so many highly paid technology and manufacturing jobs in Ohio going unfilled, more manufacturers in the state are taking on student interns to help fuel their interest in manufacturing careers.

Educators: Applications close for Manufacturing and Engineering Externship Program this week
Apply for a summer externship at a local STEM company through the Manufacturing and Engineering Externship Program. Educators in the program will complete 3-5 day externship in the summer, develop a new problem-based learning unit, and implement that new unit in their classrooms. Any Ohio K-12 teacher can apply. Applications are due February 29. Apply here.

Matching students with manufacturing internships is the aim of a program at the Ohio Development Services Agency. To find out more, we contacted the agency’s Susan Foltz, director of Manufacturing Assistance Programs in the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship:

Q: Tell us about the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Ohio MEP) and its mission to help small and medium-sized manufacturers in the state. How does it work to accomplish its mission?

A: The Ohio MEP’s mission is to drive productivity, growth, innovation and global competitiveness for the state’s small and medium-sized manufacturers. We support the mission with a full complement of services through regional funded partners in the local community. Four key areas of services include:

  • Operation expertise – quality, safety, Lean Six Sigma (improving performance), ISO (meeting international standards), etc.
  • Advanced manufacturing – additive/3D printing, automation, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, etc.
  • Cybersecurity assessments and solutions – in support of defense, automotive and other manufacturing sectors.
  • Workforce support – in collaboration with partners across Ohio to build the future manufacturing workforce using Internships, apprenticeships, MFG Day and Manufacturing Summer Camps.

Q: What is the role of the Ohio MEP’s regional affiliate service organizations?

A: The six regional funded partners support the needs of the local manufacturers. They develop relationships with other local partners, area experts and clients to deliver project-based solutions for manufacturers’ needs. The client relationship should drive business success and culminate in a third-party survey to report the impact and return on investment of the project.

Each of the six partners has a unique brand that has built a solid local presence during the 30 years of the Ohio MEP program. It is that local brand that builds upon the Ohio MEP network to encompass support for the four key service delivery areas.

Q: Tell us about the Ohio MEP’s High School Internship Program.

A: The Ohio MEP High School Internship Program has been a part of the MEP services for six years. During this time, the program has grown from 30 students per year to 100 student interns annually.

The regional partners develop relationships with local high schools and career tech centers to identify students with interests in a manufacturing career. The regional MEPs also identify clients that are willing to work with interns to develop the future workforce. The MEP and other local partners engage to support the manufacturers.

The salaries paid to the interns by the manufacturing clients are eligible for reimbursement through the Ohio MEP program, up to $1,500 per intern. During the past five years, we report an intern-to-full-time hire rate at more than 80 percent. Internships can be in the summer (short-term), or during the school year (long-term).

We believe the marrying of early engagement of students and their parents with a robust experiential learning model is a great step to support the future manufacturing workforce.

Q: How are students and manufacturers picked for the program, and how are they matched?

A: The process can begin with the school or with the manufacturing client. It is currently a manual, locally driven model to match. When the MEP identifies interest, it brings together the right local partners to fill the needs.

Q: How does the program benefit the students and the manufacturers?

A: The program benefits the students by providing real-world, experiential learning to support their education. With the 80 percent intern-to-full-time hire rate, many students could qualify for tuition reimbursement with the full-time manufacturing job. Plus, internships provide substantial support to the student’s resume.

The program benefits manufacturing clients by exposure to students they have the capability of shaping into a valuable entry-level employee. The Ohio MEP helps to mitigate the initial risk by providing reimbursement of half of the intern wages, up to $1,500 per intern. At the end of the internship period, the manufacturing client has the option to make an offer to the intern to continue working at the business.

Q: In general, do you think schools should reach out more to local industries, and why? How could they do this?

A: Schools hold opportunities to entice the manufacturing client in the door. They can ask for an industry’s representatives to serve on the district’s local advisory boards. This provides industry the up-close exposure, support and opportunity to suggest changes that will meet the industry’s needs as well as strengthen the caliber of student – making him or her ready for the workforce.

Across the state, we see schools that bring in manufacturers to present specific concepts to classes. We also see manufacturers opening their facilities to share with students, parents and faculty. If a school or manufacturer has an interest, it is an easy conversation to get started with the MEP!

Q: How can students and manufacturers find out more about the MEP High School Internship Program?

A: Contact the local MEP or our office (MEP@development.ohio.gov, 614-466-6581 or 1-800-848-1300). I have attached the Ohio MEP network directory that includes a map.

Another way to introduce your students to the manufacturing industry is by taking part in the Manufacturing and Engineering Externship Program. This summer program will allow educators the chance to engage with manufacturing processes through first-hand tours and demonstrations while also developing a curriculum to bring back to their classroom. Applications for the inaugural Ohio cohort are open through February 29th. Learn more about the opportunity and register at https://osln.org/externship/.

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