It’s back, and the video contest that asks “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” is bigger than ever.
Now in its sixth year, the competition kicks off as part of the celebration of Manufacturing Month in October and continues through the spring.
The contest brings together middle school students, their teachers and local manufacturers to learn about the manufacturers and then create a video that explains what they do.
The initiative was the brain child of the Manufacturers Resource Center in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and Karen Buck, MRC workforce initiative manager said its mission remains important. It is now in 16 regions.
“It really is amazing. It’s filling a need [manufacturers] had six years ago and today,” Buck said. “The main thing they say they need to be successful is finding skilled workers.”
She said the program helps because it reaches young people and gives them firsthand experience on the career options available for them in manufacturing, and hopefully gets them to consider a manufacturing career.
“They take STEM classes, but they don’t really even know what a job looks like, to be in a facility, to see how things are made,” Buck said.
She said schools like the program because they are looking for real-world experiences that can show how their curriculum is relevant to the real world.
She said with the expected mass retirements of baby boomers coming in the next few years, urging young people to get into manufacturing is more important than ever.
This year’s contests will see participation by 225 school/manufacturer teams.
In the Lehigh Valley contest, which covers Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, companies like B. Braun, Orbell, Mack Trucks and Ocean Spray will be working with students over the next several months to create videos that explain their operations.
There will then be online voting for the best video Feb. 20 – 22 and an awards ceremony at ArtsQuest.
The Berks Schuylkill contest, made up of teams of schools and manufacturers in Berks and Schuylkill counties will have online voting for the best video Feb. 27 – March 1 and an awards ceremony at the Doubletree by Hilton Reading March 5.
While the Lehigh Valley contest was the first in the state, the Berks Schuylkill is now the largest. In just its third year it already has 35 teams participating.
The students’ video submissions will be posted on the “What’s So Cool” website WhatsSoCool.org, and will be open to the public for voting in mid-February for the Viewer’s Choice Award.
“We are very pleased with the successes of ‘What’s So Cool,’ not only here in the Lehigh Valley but across the commonwealth and throughout the country,” said Jack Pfunder, president and CEO of MRC. “The program’s success can be attributed to the strength of the concept, to promote STEM education and an understanding of the wide range of opportunities for careers in manufacturing.”