New career paths, hope at York Manufacturing Week
Manufacturing is synonymous with York — with twice the national standard of employees in manufacturing jobs and strongholds such as York Barbell and Harley-Davidson — but what does it really mean to be in a manufacturing career?
There are "opinions that it's dark, dangerous or dingy," said York County Economic Alliance president and CEO Kevin Schreiber.
But that's not the reality today.
He describes it now as something out of a movie — futuristic and innovative.
From Fortune 500s to niche mom-and-pop shops, York has a diverse array of manufacturing, he said, and that's what the YCEA hopes to highlight at this year's Manufacturing Week, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 6.
For the third year running, the YCEA is celebrating Manufacturing Week by organizing visits for high school juniors and seniors to local manufacturers to get a first-hand look at a career in manufacturing.
The idea came from the nationally recognized Manufacturing Day — this year on Friday, Oct. 6 — which was established in 2012 with goals of educating the public about manufacturing and improving perception. Manufacturing companies in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have participated.
"The motivation for this program is to help raise awareness with our younger population
(and) destigmatize manufacturing," Schreiber said.
From its inception in 2015, the visiting schools program has grown from nine to 19 participating schools and manufacturers, with more than 500 students slated to attend this year.
Students receive one guaranteed interview with their certificate of completion of the program, and some companies have hired students who took the tours, Schreiber said.
He said in past years, it was fascinating to see students have a growing interest throughout the day, asking inquisitive questions by the tour's end. He also said he feels it's impossible to not be impressed when walking through these facilities.
Manufacturing in York County is impressive as it stands today.
The industry contributes $3.5 billion annually in economic activity, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Schreiber confirmed there are about 600 manufacturers in the county, with about 40,000 people employed — 18 percent of the county's labor force, which is twice the national average.
Manufacturing is "inherent to our DNA," he said.
From the creation of steamboats during the Industrial Revolution to the York Plan, which helped convert the county's industries into defense manufacturers for World War II, York was always strong.
"We’ve certainly been a powerhouse going back to the Industrial Revolution, and we continue that today," Schreiber said.
Robotics will continue to develop and evolve, he said, and precision metal components are a good backbone to the industry as things get smaller and smaller tech-wise, he said.
Jobs are plentiful, with companies such as BAE Systems adding 530 jobs over the next three years, as The York Dispatch reported in May. But as things become more specific, innovative and automated, Schreiber said, "we need to be mindful of what the future holds."
York County hopes to maintain its edge in the industry, but there is a skill gap as the current workforce ages.
"That’s the impetus for manufacturing days, " he said.
Shedding light on the inter-workings of manufacturing in communities can heighten the level of awareness in younger generations, including what it pays — about $60,000 for an average salary, Schreiber said.
Students attending the program will learn about the opportunities that exist for them —some they might not have known were so close to home — and they will get to see a day in the life of an employee.
Manufacturing Week in York will kick off 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, with an introduction at Coupling Corporation of America, 250 N. Main St., Jacobus. Student tours will begin Monday, Oct. 2.
For information on other Manufacturing Day events in the York area, visit mfgday.com.
2017 Manufacturing Day participants
Schools: Red Lion Area High School, Eastern York High School, Logos Academy, Central York High School, Dover Area High School, Dallastown Area High School, Christian School of York, Northern High School, West York Area High School, William Penn High School, Northeastern High School, York Catholic High School, Red Land High School, CA Charter School, York Suburban High School, Kennard Dale High School, Susquehannock High School, York County School of Technology, Cedar Cliff High School
Manufacturers: Specialty Industries, Klinge, Herculite, Military & Commercial Fasteners, Weldon Solutions, Fox Pool, Tekgard, Pennex Aluminum, Tooling Dynamics, Starbucks, SWF Industrial, American Hydro, New Concept Technology, Harley-Davidson, Graham Architectural Products, Coupling Corp., Topflight, MKT Metal, Amphenol