Gov. Tom Wolf looked into “the future of education” during a visit to McDowell High School on Thursday.
Wolf was at the school to tour McDowell Manufacturing, a student-run company that manufactures parts for local industries. The venture is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and is the model for two new school-based companies that will launch this fall.
Wolf also addressed gun violence during his visit, saying “thoughts and prayers” aren’t enough to prevent mass shootings, including the shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school on Tuesday that left at least 19 students and two teachers dead.
“Common sense” changes must be made to prevent gun violence, Wolf said.
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“I’m angry,” Wolf said. “We should not just be wringing our hands and offering thoughts and prayers. Here in Pennsylvania we need to do something, not just say I’m sorry. I’m not talking about anything that would violate anybody’s constitutional rights. But we need to plug the loopholes in background checks, report it when a gun is stolen and store guns safely.
“No one complains about having a driver’s license in Pennsylvania, yet you can get a gun with no training, no background check, nothing,” Wolf said.
‘The future of education’: McDowell Manufacturing
“This is what should be going on in schools. What I saw here today is the future of education,” Wolf said after a student-led tour of McDowell Manufacturing. “You not only are providing education but education relevant to the lives students will be going into.”
From 2020:McDowell students to run their own manufacturing company
The program provides students with the skills that manufacturers need, Wolf said.
“This is a major win for students, a major win for companies and a major win for all of us in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said.
McDowell Manufacturing opened in fall 2020 in partnership with the Northwest Industrial Resource Center, one of seven regional economic development organizations in the state. The program was launched with the help of almost $200,000 in state funding.
A $99,730 grant awarded in March by the Manufacturing Training to Career program of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development will provide additional staff, training and equipment for McDowell program.
McDowell Manufacturing students so far have made more than 13,500 parts for 10 industries, most of them in the Erie region, including Erie Bronze & Aluminum. Their earnings go back into the program and provide scholarships for students.
Sixty-four students participate in the program this school year, instructor Kyle Bucholtz said.
Not all of the student employees manufacture parts. Students also write sales quotes and handle purchase orders, accounting, marketing, graphics, quarterly sales tax reports, and more ― basically every job in the manufacturing company.
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McDowell Manufacturing was modeled on what is believed to be the only other student-run manufacturing company in the nation, in Wisconsin. The McDowell program is the model for similar training programs set to launch in the Saint Marys and Bradford Area school districts this fall and in three more western Pennsylvania school districts in 2023.
“This program is a lighthouse, it’s a beacon” for those programs, said Bob Zaruta, president and CEO of the Northwest Industrial Resource Center.
Industry in education:Announcing McDowell Manufacturing Academy
McDowell Manufacturing is based in a former art room at the school. Initial state funding provided CNC mills and lathes and a robotic welder to equipment already in place for McDowell Manufacturing Academy, a separate program founded with the help of local manufacturers in fall 2019 to teach students manufacturing skills.
Contact Valerie Myers at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.