MENTOR, Ohio — The first Friday of October is National Manufacturing Day.
This year, there was a ribbon cut for the Transformation Training Center in Mentor.
It features high-tech learning facilities for members, local schools, and the community. AWT, or the Alliance for Working Together Foundation, is the organization behind the project. But the new center isn’t the only way they are exposing people to manufacturing.
The hits at the 12th annual Robobots competition are making an impact in more ways than one. Dozens of teams from area high schools have spent months building battle robots for their three minutes in the ring until only one robot is left standing.
“So, it is a way to introduce high school students to manufacturing through building a 15-pound robot. And we pair them up with a manufacturing company”, said Teresa Simons, the Executive Director of Alliance for Working Together. AWT puts on the competition.
The battle bot, Buttercup, built by Mentor High School, took the top spot.
“It was just an incredible journey,” remarked Alec Byrum, the faculty adviser, for the Mentor High School team. “We took sheets of cardboard, we are cutting out different shapes to work with, and to see it go from that to 3D printed to final design and then to finally win it has been amazing.”
With this excitement, the Alliance for Working Together hopes to have students looking at careers in manufacturing. Currently, the industry is growing, while the number of skilled labor workers is shrinking.
According to the 2022 Marcum Nation Manufacturing Survey, 83% of companies say attracting and retaining trained workers is their greatest challenge.
“We need to normalize manufacturing careers,” said Simons. “And really, in the long run, to not go into debt over going to school and actually go into a career that you can make a good living at.”
To normalize those career choices, AWT holds summer camps for 5th and 6th graders. The students do hands-on projects, learn STEM concepts and tour area companies.
“We want to introduce it to them at a young age,” said Rachel Metcalf, AWT’s Educational Director. “They like to work with their hands, and they go into these manufacturers and see how high-tech and clean they are.”
For middle schoolers, there is the Juriorbots competition, where smaller robots enter the battle ring. Wickliffe Middle School is undefeated in the competition.
“Definity amazing to win. I put a lot of work, we all put a lot of work into the robot, so it feels amazing to win,” said 7th grader Ryan Stevenson-Powell.
Now AWT’s latest project is the Transformation Training Center. Two years in the making, the center was funded by national, state, and foundation grants, also local company donations. The goal of the center in Mentor is to combat the local skill gap.
“What we saw was the need for additional training. And we have an apprenticeship program that will be housed in this facility. It will give us the ability to train additional people coming out of different industries,” stated Simons.
The center is a workforce development hub, with different labs, and the home of Mentor, Wickliffe and Euclid school’s tech programs.
“I can’t believe it, it is just hard to believe,” said the founder of AWT, Roger Sustar.
Sustar hopes the center will ensure a future for local manufacturing.
“We can have kids trained, and we can make manufacturing like it used to be. Do you remember was like the number one city in the world? We were the largest community that made things. Hopefully, someday, we will come back to that and that will be my dream come true,” said Sustar.
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