Partnerships can be powerful.
The Ellwood Group and the Warren County School District are one such match.
Ellwood needs highly-skilled employees.
The school district, especially at the Warren County Career Center, needs the equipment and capital to teach students the skills they will need to be successful in the workforce.
The two are coming together in some meaningful ways.
Through funding for equipment and a dialogue about what each entity's needs are, both organizations stand to benefit. They met last Wednesday at the WCCC and discussed the nature of that partnership.
On Ellwood's side, Vice President of Operations Charles Olson explained that the industry, globally, is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. "Our commitment to the future is to do our part to do our very, very best to overcome that shortage in ways we believe that we can," he said. "We are more than willing to put money into the advancement of skills such as we have done here at the Warren County Career Center.
"We are proud of our industry and we believe that the production of product is what has made this country so strong and so wholesome and we are committed to absolutely not letting anything stand in the way of continuing that progress," he added.
For the district, "Our goal is to provide them (the students) with the skills that they need to be successful to work in the community or go on to post-secondary," Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Amanda Hetrick said. "We designed a plan a couple of years ago to focus on the machine technology shop because there is such a demand for skilled machinists."
That five-phase plan incorporated $192,500 in funding from the Ellwood Grant to enhance, particularly, the Machine Technology and the Pre-Engineering programs.
Hetrick said, "The foundational block of what you have done for us with the support that you've (Ellwood) provided is to give us the support that we need to get our kids excited" as new equipment arrives on campus. "We have more motivated kids," she added.
She said that enrollment at in the Machine Technology program has increased from 18 this year to 24 for next year.
One of the newest pieces of equipment in the machine shop is a Haas five axis mini mill.
The tool will allow students to make, essentially, any part they might need for a project. The five axis feature, in comparison to a standard three axis model, will allow the students to make more accurate, precision pieces in less time.
Mike Barrett, with Ellwood National Crankshaft, said, "These five axis machine tools are the same type of machine tool we're installing within our shop as we speak...that experience that these students will gain in operating these machine tools will directly translate into the applications we are using within our shop."
And beyond these benefits, the students are actually assembling the new mill in the shop, providing them the opportunity to see, in even greater depth, how the machine functions. Students have been involved in "every step of it," Machine Technology instructor Greg Wisenauer said.
The mill is "cutting edge, state of the art," he added. "It's pretty slick."
Olson said, "These machines bring metal cutting experience, tooling experience, they'll bring CNC programming experience and they will bring machining skill experience that they (the students) might not have otherwise have had the opportunity to experience."
With other equipment upgrades and expansions, coupled with more cutting-edge computer software, " has given us the opportunity to have kids designing parts and building them from scratch," Hetrick said.
"We have the ability now for our kids to take a design from infancy and take it through mock up and bring it over and get a final product," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said. "They can take it from beginning to end and see the whole process and how different avenues feed into the whole process."
"It's a great program that we have here in Warren County and what we really need to do is get the message out that we have good family sustaining jobs in Warren County. This is exciting," Barrett said.
Olson agreed. "We want to provide jobs. We want to provide security in Warren County and longevity to our industry. That is why we want to make sure we contribute," he said. "We will benefit. We want to help them to further develop their career. We just want to demonstrate our commitment to the future of this industry through these kinds of investments."
"We really have done a lot with the funds that have come through with this grant," Jim Young, director of career and technical education at the Career Center, said. "In the circle of career and tech, this grant is the talk of the state because it's big. It has a big impact and they understand how important it is."
"This business partnership that we have with Ellwood is very important because it's helping us put the equipment in the hands of the kids that they will be using in the workforce," Hufnagel said.
Olson said, "We believe in these kids and we realize that our future is here."