A pilot program designed to prepare high school students interested in manufacturing opportunities after graduating will be launched Jan. 4 at Delta High School.
A partnership between the high school, OhioMeansJobs in Fulton County, Northwest State Community College (NSCC), the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center, and local employers has produced Future of Fulton County. The pilot program will offer selected high school students the skills and experience they’ll need to pursue a manufacturing position once they graduate.
The program is driven by new Ohio Department of Education high school graduation requirements set for 2021 and 2022 that will permit students to earn an industry-recognized credential seal and the OhioMeansJobs seal for their diploma. Eight students chosen by DHS Principal Douglas Ford for the school’s inaugural run will undergo a 160-hour program covering safety, quality practices and measurement, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness as part of their high school curriculum.
Participants must pass a required exam to earn the nationally-recognized Certified Production Technician certification.
Ford said local companies Worthington Industries and North Star Bluescope Steel will contribute to the program, whose spring debut was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. From January to May the selected students will spend 2 1/2 hours each day with instructors from NSCC and with manufacturing representatives to learn through instruction, Internet-based modules, and hands-on training.
The DHS students will earn both high school credit and a nationally-recognized certified production technician certificate. They also earn the industry-recognized credential seal and OhioMeansJobs seal on their diploma.
“We were looking for the kid who wants more of a hands-on learning experience and wants to be employable at graduation,” Ford said. “Obviously, it makes them more employable after high school. The mutual benefit for the economy and the local companies is, they’re getting someone who is trained and ready for the workforce.”
Should the DHS program prove successful, high school students from neighboring districts will be invited to participate if their schools don’t have similar programs. And once the pandemic ends Ford would be open to offering the program in the evening to adults “to partner with OhioMeansJobs and NSCC to help our economy and local manufacturers.”
Cara Leininger, supervisor for OhioMeansJobs-Fulton County, said OhioMeansJobs had already run the program three times through its organization before DHS offered to host it. The organization will assist in paying for the program using federally-funded grants.
“We’ve had completions and success with the program,” Leininger said. “This program will help the individuals who are graduating high school to have an advancement going into the manufacturing industry. This is a starting ground for it, and from there they’ll look to add other school districts and employers.”
Leininger said it’s hoped the joint effort will give students skills and information that could encourage them to pursue careers locally.
Jim Drewes said the program is about trying to get qualified students an orientation-type training so they understand what is required in the workforce in the manufacturing area. The NSCC vice president for workforce development said the college will provide a technical instructor from the manufacturing environment.
“For a student that’s not going to go to college, not going to the military, and isn’t sure what they want to do, this is a great career pathway for them to earn a credential to get a job in manufacturing,” he said. That said, if a college student isn’t sure which path to follow, “let’s get them a job so they understand what they don’t like to do and then they can choose a career path which is more fitting for their attitude, their personality,” Drewes said.
He said because almost 65% of Fulton County area jobs are connected with manufacturing, “There’s a great opportunity for careers, but if you’re not sure when you walk in the door, this class will help in connecting. Hopefully, it will get that young worker an awareness before they’re in their second year of college…and don’t like what they’re studying.”
He added that manufacturing positions include engineering, skill maintenance, quality positions, and business scheduling, and that local companies sometimes offer apprentice training or tuition reimbursement.
Worthington Industries is happy to be included in the pilot program, said Jessica Double, human resources business partner.
“We do everything we can to support our community, in particular the students that can become our future workforce,” she said.
Company representatives will teach the students resume writing and interviewing, and will take them to the manufacturing plant to participate in a realistic job preview, a group exercise, and an actual interview. Double said Future of Fulton County could possibly lead to a Worthington job offer.
She said the pilot program meshes with the philosophy written by the company’s founder. “It is the lifeblood of our company, and this program aligns with that perfectly,” she said.
Ford said the DOE has talked in the past about creating career and college-ready students but “this is like the first time, with these new seals and stuff, that I feel they’re actually supporting that career-ready student. I’m super excited, not only for our students to be able to get some pretty darned good jobs right here in our own backyard with North Star and Worthington but all the other industry here in Fulton County, and hoping that it’s mutually beneficial for the local economy. We want to be able to be part of the solution to support that workforce shortage. These kids can walk out of here and they can be set up for a career.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.