Tom Wolf, the democratic Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate recently visited The Rodon Group factory as part of his “Fresh Start” campaign tour. One of the cornerstones of Wolf’s campaign is a focus on creating manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania. As a business owner, who sourced American made goods for his distribution company, Wolf knows firsthand, the importance of manufacturing on our economy. During his speech to The Rodon Group employees, Wolf said he had an “aha” moment when he asked for manufacturing bids from companies across the globe. Turns out, the lowest bids came from American manufacturers. “Conventional wisdom says you need to go to low cost countries.” Wolf stated. “Manufacturing is not something that is alien to the U.S. We offer better products, better service and lead time.”
Government’s role in supporting manufacturing
Wolf concedes that to grow our manufacturing economy, companies cannot do it alone. He says government can help “set the table for all businesses to thrive." But to take advantage of future opportunities, you need a skilled workforce that will attract business and investment.
Citing the National Governor’s Association, Wolf’s website points out that “manufacturing accounts for more than 10 percent of total employment, making it the third-largest sector in the state," a pretty impressive statistic. Manufacturing jobs pay on average $6,000 more than the average worker’s salary. These jobs and their output comprise 12% of the gross state product. This data tells an extraordinary story. For our middle class to grow and prosper, we need to grow this sector of our economy.
One of the ways to “set the table” according to Wolf’s plan, is to invest in education and encourage more educational innovation. We witnessed education innovation at its best during a recent visit to the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute. This school, at its core, is a technical high school. However, it is a tech school on steroids. The school serves all of Lehigh County and is one of the largest technical schools in the country. Along with meeting the technical education needs of 10 area high schools, they also provide adult education training for individuals and corporations. One of the key characteristics of the school administration and teaching staff is the sense of entrepreneurship. They look for opportunities to expand their educational offerings and add value to the community. They are keenly aware of the fact that taxpayers are their primary source of revenue, so they make sure they are developing the skill sets in their students that will benefit the long-term health of the community. They work with an occupational advisory council comprised of local businesses. This group provides insight into the latest technologies and related skills that are required by area businesses. They uses this information to purchase the equipment and training materials to develop their courses and meet industry requirements.
NASA’s HUNCH Program at LCTI
Another example of this “entrepreneurial” approach to education innovation is the Precision Machines Tools participation in NASA’s HUNCH program (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware). While attending and educators conference, the teachers in the Precision Machine Tools program were looking for ways to engage their students with tangible projects when they heard about HUNCH from a fellow educator. After completing the application, LCTI was officially accepted as a participating school and is one of the two schools in Pennsylvania to earn this distinction.
The HUNCH projects are based on astronaut’s surveys about their experience and the hard and soft goods that would make their lives a bit easier in space. Last year, the LCTI team worked on a “sanitation” device for crew members. The students use materials and equipment provided by NASA and receive critical quality inspection and oversight of the project. Clearly, the teachers at LCTI are focused on providing a relevant and engaging learning environment.
The “Skill Up” initiative
“Skill Up” is a collaborative effort involving the Manufacturing Resource Center, Da Vinci Science Center, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board. As stated on their website “Lehigh Valley Skill Up is a workforce development project intended to raise awareness of manufacturing careers and their essential skills for students in grades K-8, their adult family members, and teachers.” Recently they launched a “Dream It, Do It” website which highlights resources for students, teachers and manufacturers as well as student videos of “cool” manufacturing jobs in the area. You can view some of these videos here.
American Manufacturing Day
The Rodon Group is proud to be a participant of this annual celebration of American manufacturing. It is a great way to engage kids and educators in learning more about the manufacturing careers that are available throughout our state. Last year, more than 800 companies around the country opened their doors and invited the community to get a firsthand look at their operations. You can find out who is participating by visiting the website, and mark your calendars…October 3rd is not that far away.