Every summer for nine years now, my office partners with local companies and organizations to host manufacturing camps for 4th through 8th graders across Ohio. And I’m excited that many community partners are welcoming campers back in person this summer.
Last year, most of the camps had to take a hiatus because of the pandemic – but some leaders got creative and worked to put together virtual camps. I joined one of those camps on Zoom last year, and this year, I’m excited for us all to be back in person.
This summer we have in-person camps in Defiance, Jackson, Knox, Lake/Geauga, Mahoning, Portage, Richland, Summit, and Trumbull counties. And we hope to be back in many more counties next summer, as we were in 2019 with 27 camps, all over the state.
We started these camps almost a decade ago, because too often, our students don’t realize all the opportunities available to them in this industry. When kids hear the word “manufacturing,” they think about dirty, dusty old jobs, and the outdated, offensive term “rust belt,” that demeans our workers and devalues their work. But today’s Ohio factories aren’t rusty – they’re innovative and high-tech.
In past summers, students in Ross County participated in hands-on robotics activities, campers in Geauga county attended an aerospace engineering institute, and kids in Mahoning County built model homes out of recycled material and experimented with wind turbines.
This summer at the Girls on the Go camp in Lake County, campers learned about engineering by designing and building their own rocket, which is shot off with compressed air. Our camp in Defiance is focused on automotive and construction manufacturing, and will include visits to local manufacturers. In Richland County, the campers will learn about STEAM skills, and in Youngstown, campers will build their own smartwatches.
If we’re going to compete with China, we need Ohioans to realize all the opportunities available to them in these industries, and we need to make sure manufacturing jobs are good jobs, where people can build careers and see a future. That’s what these camps allow Ohio kids to do.