What's so cool about manufacturing? Kids answer with videos
A video contest is helping middle schoolers in York County and beyond learn about the manufacturers that operate in their hometowns - and the jobs those manufacturers might someday offer them.
Manufacturing consulting and advisory firm Mantec is, for the second year, hosting the contest for school students in and around York County.
Called "What's So Cool about Manufacturing?" the competition challenges 7th and 8th graders to produce two-and-a-half-minute videos about the products made at local companies and the day-to-day responsibilities of their employees.
Fourteen schools are participating in the contest through Mantec this year, including 12 in York County, one in Lancaster County and one in Adams County, said LeighAnn Wilson, marketing manager for Mantec.
The Lehigh Valley-based Manufacturers Resource Center launched the contest five years ago with help from a state grant. The contest has since spread to 11 other states, with a dozen regions from Pennsylvania participating in this year's contest.
The issue of recruiting and retaining young talent for manufacturing jobs hits especially close to home for companies in and around York County. Although manufacturing jobs declined locally and nationally with the rise of technology throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the need for new talent has grown in recent years as baby boomers eye retirement.
"It's not good," Wilson said. "There are many job openings and not a lot of people to fill them."
Wilson believes the video competition could prove a valuable tool because it catches kids at a relatively young age, before they may have formed an opinion about what they want to do after high school. It also provides a kind of peer education when students screen their films in front of their classmates.
Jobs were not necessarily front-of-mind Tuesday for a group of budding videographers who toured MKT Metal Manufacturing in Manchester Township.
The students, a group consisting mostly of eighth-graders from Northeastern Middle School, eyed the whirring machinery for the best video shots, placing the gaze of their tripod-mounted GoPros on everything from employees hammering at sheets of metal to machines cutting insulation.
MKT specializes in duct work, building the metal tubes for various kinds of construction. The vast majority of the company's workforce is local, said Troy Rentzel, MKT's vice president of facilities and safety.
"I think there's a lot of people who don't understand what's made in York County," Rentzel said. The contest, he said, gives MKT a chance to showcase its work.
The Northeastern students, all of whom participate in the school's morning announcements program, spent a significant amount of time preparing for Tuesday's tour, said teacher Korissa Herrold.
Finally going out to shoot the video was a kind of treat for the kids, she said. They excitedly asked questions throughout the tour and posed for photos around the metal tubes.
"A lot of students and the public tend to brush it aside," Herrold said of the manufacturing industry. "We decided it's important to tell a story."
Voting for this year's contest will take place online Feb. 7 through 9.
Check out last year's video by students from Eastern York School District, which won the Viewers Choice and Outstanding Editing awards: