Students learn of manufacturing opportunities at New Kensington’s Digital Foundry
BY BRIAN C. RITTMEYER | Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 5:01 a.m. | TribLIve.com
Alexis Beard has an interest in engineering. A senior at Franklin Regional High School, she wants to create and design something that helps people.
“My passion is bridges,” she said.
Noah Kleckner, a senior at Burrell High School, wants to pursue mechanical engineering, unless someone can change his mind.
“I love working with my hands and problem-solving,” he said.
Beard and Kleckner were among about 50 students from several schools attending a manufacturing event for high school students Friday at Penn State’s Digital Foundry in New Kensington.
Students came from the A.W. Beattie Career Center and Northern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center, as well as the Burrell, Franklin Regional, Freeport Area and New Kensington- Arnold school districts.
It followed a gathering there Wednesday for businesses. That event drew about 115 people from three dozen to four dozen companies, said Stephen Leonard, operations and programing manager for the Digital Foundry, the opening of which was celebrated June 1.
Since opening, the facility on Fifth Avenue in downtown New Kensington has hosted several camps in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM; workforce training programs; and technology demonstrations, Leonard said.
The events this week were held as part of the national observance of October as Manufacturing Month. The gathering Wednesday for local and regional manufacturers included technology demonstrations; presentations; a speaker on diversity, equity and inclusion in manufacturing; and a workforce training panel.
On Friday, students from high schools and vocational-technical schools were able to learn about smart manufacturing and career opportunities from industry representatives.
Mark Dempster, a technology education teacher at Freeport Area High School, brought six students from his manufacturing class.
“I wanted to find out what the Digital Foundry would offer for our students as far as educational opportunities or opportunities to find out about manufacturing,” he said.
Dempster said he hoped his students would discover career and educational paths they previously didn’t know existed and understand the relevancy of what they are learning in school.
“Sometimes, they think I just make it up. They don’t always believe me,” Dempster said.
J.V. Manufacturing was among the businesses attending. Amber Wharrey, human resources and safety administrator, said the tool-and-die business has opportunities for students before and after they graduate, including internships and summer help.
“We’re always looking to hire anyone from any background,” Wharrey said. “Anything is possible. There’s always room for growth. Manufacturing goes hand-in-hand with technology, so it’s always changing.”
Obai Kouli, a senior process lead with Bayer, was talking with students about what Bayer is, what it does and the opportunities there.
“It’s great to see the young minds getting out and getting a glimpse of what the future looks like,” he said.
Steve Garia, an apprentice training instructor with Oberg Industries, said they want to motivate young people to enter the manufacturing field. Oberg will be hiring next year.
From the questions students were asking him, Garia said the future of manufacturing is very promising.
“They’re really engaged. They really are,” he said. “A lot of them know what they want to do.”
This summer, Kleckner said he learned about manufacturing and industrial engineering through an internship with MetPlas Inc. Until Friday, he had no idea the Digital Foundry was in New Kensington.
“It’s ridiculously impressive,” he said.
For Beard, who is interning with Massaro Construction Group, seeing all the different places she could go was helpful.
“It’s giving me a look into my future,” she said.