A local initiative – to prepare Champaign County students for in-demand manufacturing careers and help supply the skilled employees local manufacturers need – is beginning to pay off.
Zack Zizzo, a 2017 Triad High School graduate, is among those already seeing the benefits. So is Dan Szklany, plant manager of ORBIS Corporation in Urbana.
ORBIS recently hired Zizzo as a paid intern. And while he works, ORBIS is providing Zizzo tuition assistance for the two-year mechanical engineering technology program at Clark State Community College. That comes with the promise of a job at ORBIS after graduation.
Szklany says ORBIS will benefit from Zizzo’s internship. “We’ll have a new employee who has the skills we need to succeed and who understands our culture.” He adds, smiling, “and has new ideas to bring to the plant.”
Zizzo came to ORBIS endorsed by Todd Bodey, who teaches Ohio Hi-Point Career Center’s Advanced Manufacturing program, which began at Triad High School in 2015, at the start of Zizzo’s junior year.
Before going into education, Bodey worked for a variety of companies, including Honeywell Aerospace in Urbana, so he knows what manufacturers look for in employees.
Advanced manufacturing program
The Advanced Manufacturing program at Triad is a product of a manufacturing workforce partnership formed by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP), Champaign County’s economic development agency. The CEP worked with local manufacturers to form the Champaign County Manufacturing Human Resources Council. Local schools have also been brought into the partnership to help find ways to prepare students for skilled jobs that manufacturers are having difficulty filling.
Debbie Wortman, Ohio Hi-Point’s satellite director, got involved in the partnership. She said that representatives of local manufacturers told her, “We really need to do something to create a more prepared workforce. This can’t wait.”
And that’s how the Triad Advanced Manufacturing program came to be.
Zizzo is the second Triad Advanced Manufacturing student to intern with a local manufacturer. Kaleb Kaylor interned at the Hall Company in Urbana in the summer of 2016, after graduating from Triad and before beginning studies at Wright State University.
Bodey said 52 students are enrolled this school year in the three courses offered in the Advanced Manufacturing program – Manufacturing Operations for first-year students, Computer Integrated Manufacturing for second-year students and CNC Technologies for third-year students. Next school year, the fourth year of the program, Robotics will be added to the curriculum. And the program includes introductory classes for middle school students.
Many Advanced Manufacturing students will go directly from high school to manufacturing jobs, while others like Zizzo and Kaylor will obtain additional training and education.
Champaign County’s manufacturing workforce partnership has been promoting manufacturing careers in additional ways that include:
· Inventors Camp, held the past three years at the Champaign Family YMCA, to introduce children, ages 6 to 12, to manufacturing through hands-on activities and presentations by representatives of local manufacturing companies.
· A display at the Champaign County Fair, featuring local manufacturers and their products and job opportunities.
· Manufacturing Day activities for local high school students, including tours of local manufacturing facilities and presentations by manufacturers at Urbana University. This year’s Manufacturing Day will be held Oct. 6.
· Community Job Connect, an online job posting and search website that features Champaign County-based jobs, including internships for students. The site, communityjobconnect.com, resulted from the manufacturing workforce partnership but is for all types of jobs and employers, not exclusively manufacturing. The site can also be accessed from the CEP’s website, cepohio.com.
Part of the challenge in preparing a new generation for manufacturing careers, Szklany said, is helping students and their parents “understand that modern manufacturing is a great place to build a career, and plants are driving innovation. We’ve got great, talented employees who are working with new kinds of technology all the time.”
“It’s not factory work,” adds Zizzo, who has been working in machine maintenance and programming CNC machines at ORBIS. And when he graduates from Clark State, he’ll have two career paths to choose from at ORBIS, Szklany said: preventive machine maintenance or engineering/project management.
Marcia Bailey, director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, said that manufacturing jobs can provide a good living. “The Dayton Development Coalition just reported that annual manufacturing salaries in Champaign County are averaging $64,000 in the third quarter of 2017.”