CANFIELD, Ohio -
Friday was Manufacturing Day, a chance for places like Youngstown State University and the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center to show just how much the industry is changing.
"We can't-do the same old manufacturing. It has to be the newer stuff that is more flexible. It's faster, it brings better material properties and it's less expensive," said YSU Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology Brian Vuksanovich. "A lot of people don't even know that this type of job exists. So how are they going to apply for a job that they don't even know what it is."
So this is an opportunity not only to see it in person but to change the conversation. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a roundtable discussion at MCCTC, and he desperately wants to shed that traditional "rust belt" label.
"Using that term, it demeans our work, it diminishes what we do here," said Brown. "These plants, I've been in probably 100 manufacturing plants in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana and Portage counties over the years. They're not rusty, they're high-tech."
One of the big takeaways from Friday's roundtable discussion was changing the perception, not for the students but for the parents of those students, about the types of manufacturing jobs that are out there.
"This is a new era. A new era of manufacturing where you're using computer programmed equipment. The guys are doing programming, they're doing engineering," said Tim Harrington, Chief Operating Officer for BOC Water Hydraulics in Salem.
"You gotta be smart, you gotta get trained, but it doesn't mean you have to go to YSU or Ohio State or Case Western. It means maybe you go to Eastern Gateway, maybe you go to the career center right here," said Brown.
Getting people to walk through that door, that's the challenge right now. Realizing these aren't the old jobs in the mill, they're the future of this industry.