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Penn College Celebrates Manufacturing Day 2015

From a simple basement machine shop in 1914 to today’s high-tech labs throughout campus, Pennsylvania College of Technology and its predecessor institutions have always embraced manufacturing. The college celebrated that commitment to American manufacturing on Manufacturing Day 2015.

“Manufacturing Day is an incredible opportunity for us to really communicate to the world what we do here at Penn College,” said Davie Jane Gilmour, president. “We’re a college of technology, and we offer this amazing set of degrees that are what I call ‘recession proof.’ And they are all connected to manufacturing in some way.”

Blair Soars (left), president of Pneu-Dart Inc., talks with Penn College students and C. Hank White (second from left), director of the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, during a recent Manufacturing Day program.
Blair Soars (left), president of Pneu-Dart Inc., talks with Penn College students and C. Hank White (second from left), director of the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, during a recent Manufacturing Day program.

Observed this year on Oct. 2, Manufacturing Day highlights the importance of manufacturing and inspires a new generation of manufacturing professionals. Penn College was one of more than 2,000 locations nationwide to host a Manufacturing Day event.

Thanks to a joint effort between the college and the Innovative Manufacturers’ Center, a nonprofit agency that assists manufacturers in 12 central Pennsylvania counties, representatives from two innovative companies addressed students, faculty and staff on the college’s main campus in Williamsport: Pneu-Dart, Inc. and Gilson Boards, LLC.

An established company headquartered near Barbours, Pneu-Dart manufactures injection equipment and projectors for remote drug-delivery systems designed to capture or medicate animals. Winfield-based startup Gilson Boards produces snowboards featuring a three-dimensional base.

Both company presidents, Blair Soars for Pneu-Dart and Nick Gilson for Gilson Boards, told the 120 attendees that innovation is inherent in today’s manufacturing and rewarding, varied career opportunities wait.

“You could feel the energy in the room today,” Soars said. “Penn College students today are on the cutting edge of something the country is going to be catching up to. As a result of that, I feel proud to say that we are part of this community and the college is here for us.”

“We need people who can think every day, solve problems that are new and blaze a trail through totally uncharted territory,” Gilson said. “The audience members today were really receptive to these ideas.”

Shannon M. Munro, executive director of Workforce Development & Continuing Education at Penn College and one of the event’s organizers, was grateful for such a reaction.

“We were overwhelmed by the positive response from students and the manufacturers who attended the event,” she said. “The day reinforced that manufacturing jobs are lucrative and challenging and that our students transition into the sector from many different majors.”

Nick Gilson, president of Gilson Boards LLC, addresses the Manufacturing Day crowd in the Bush Campus Center.
Nick Gilson, president of Gilson Boards LLC, addresses the Manufacturing Day crowd in the Bush Campus Center.

Despite directly employing 12 million workers – about 9 percent of the country’s workforce – the majority of manufacturers report they cannot find the skilled workers they need. An estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs are expected to be unfilled over the next decade. The technical-skills shortage in manufacturing is exacerbated by 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day and faulty perceptions that manufacturing is a dying, dark, dirty, dangerous career option.

“Manufacturing is viable. It’s technical. It’s clean and it’s a great opportunity that my student, my kid should consider,” said Elizabeth A. Biddle, director of corporate relations at Penn College. “I hear continuously from both manufacturing companies, as well as other technical industries, that say, ‘We can’t get enough people to fill our jobs.’ The opportunities are there!”

Manufacturing offers careers ranging from engineering and designing to machining and programming. State-of-the-art equipment including 3D printers, robots and screen technology are commonplace in today’s manufacturing environment. Average annual compensation for a manufacturing worker is $77,000, which is approximately $15,000 more than the average for workers in all industries.

With associate- and bachelor-degree majors in areas such as welding, plastics, electronics and computer engineering technology, automated manufacturing, machining, and engineering design, Penn College graduates are well-positioned to establish rewarding careers.

“We generally have more opportunities for graduates than graduates to place,” said David R. Cotner, dean of industrial, computing and engineering technologies. “The students are writing their own tickets.”

Students who take advantage of a new innovation leadership minor should be even more in demand. The 18-credit credential focuses on “how to make innovation a reliable system instead of a random art,” according to Biddle.

“The innovation minor is really at the heart of what manufacturing is all about,” Gilmour said. “The minor is going to allow people to open their eyes, open their minds and see new ways to do things. It will improve manufacturing. It will improve processes. It will improve production.”

For more information regarding the innovation leadership minor and manufacturing-related degrees within the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520. A video on Manufacturing Day at the college can be viewed on the Penn College YouTube channel.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.