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R.A. Jones Middle School students get a glimpse into a career in advanced manufacturing at Mubea event

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Some students from R.A. Jones Middle School in Florence got a jump on Manufacturing Day 2018 Thursday at the Mubea North America facility on Dixie Highway in Boone County.

Mubea apprentice Adam Janowski (center, gray shirt) works with R. A. Jones Middle School students on programming a vehicle at the company’s Manufacturing Day 2018 event. Janowski says it’s rewarding to educate students about opportunities he wasn’t aware of when he was their age (photos by Mark Hansel).

Each year, Manufacturing Day gives nearly 300,000 youths and their parents an opportunity to see firsthand how they can create a future for themselves through a career in advanced manufacturing. Impactful events are offered by thousands of manufacturers across the country.

For most of the country, this year’s Manufacturing Day is today, but many schools across Northern Kentucky are not in session, so Mubea hosted 20 Jones Middle School eighth graders Thursday.

German-based Mubea manufactures automotive components, such as springs, hose clamps and stabilizer bars. It started operating in Kentucky in 1982.

Drew Farris, training manager for Mubea North America, said Manufacturing Day is a great opportunity for students to see the benefits of a career in advanced manufacturing.

“This morning we had a conference call with Germany and let them speak with some of our colleagues,” Farris said. “We did a little question- and-answer and they got to ask what life is like there, compared to the United States.

That is an important part of the engagement, Farris said, because it allows the students to see the opportunities that are available if they choose to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing.

R.A. Jones STEM teacher Todd Hanley (seated) and counselor Amanda Bardo (red shirt), observe students participating in Thursday’s Manufacturing Day 2018 event at Mubea North America’s Dixie Highway facillity.

Adam Janowski, who participates in the Mubea apprenticeship program, and apprenticeship supervisor Brittany Cress, worked with Farris to organize a program for the students.

“They were able to write programs in teams of five and we put an obstacle course together for them to compete against each other,” Farris said. “Jones Middle School selects students that have an interest in advanced manufacturing, they have had some robotics training and high math scores, so they have some familiarity. They are driving the robots over the top of our product lines and later, they will get a tour of our apprentice shop and learn a little more about advanced manufacturing.”

Janowski, in his second year of Mubea’s three-and-a half-year apprenticeship program, has had an interest in mathematics and programming from an early age, as a student at Twenhofel Middle School. Later, he was involved in advanced robotics competitions at Simon Kenton High School, so he had some insights into what would motivate the students.

“One problem I had in school was that there were very few programs focused on getting people into manufacturing,” Janowski said.

R.A. Jones Middle School students Isaiah Sansom and Betzi Arellano work on programming a vehicle at Thursday’s Manufacturing Day 2018 event. Both students recognized at an early age that they had mechanical aptitude and superior math skills.

In his junior year, Janowski was enrolled in the Kenton County Academies of Innovation and Technology.

“I spent half my day in regular class and half my day in what was basically an advanced vocational school,” Janowski said. “When I found out what was available in advanced manufacturing I wondered why no one said, ‘hey, this is what’s out there.’ So, for me, being a part of this is pretty big, to be able to let kids know what we have to offer.”

Todd Hanley, a STEM teacher at Jones Middle School, said the school’s goal in recent years is to increase exposure to that program.

“We realized that advanced manufacturing is the easiest connection to STEM,” Hanley said. “Greater Cincinnati is kind of the advanced manufacturing hub of the country, so we’re trying to give the kids their ‘why’ – why do good in school, why look at these companies? We’re a mile-and-a-half from our school right now, this is local and it’s a strong motivation.”

Amanda Bardo, a school counselor at Jones Middle School said it is important for students, especially young women, to be aware of all of their options.

“When we were growing up it was be a teacher, be a nurse for females,” Bardo said. “I think the female populations needs to understand that advanced manufacturing is an option and the female population is going to boom in that area. That’s important for them to be aware of.”

Betzi Arellano said she first realized her mechanical aptitude when she started working on cars with her dad and she really enjoyed it.

“Once I got older, I started getting better at oil changes and things like that and at the same time I realized I was really good in math,” Arellano said. “The coolest thing I learned today was how to do the rotations and the programming of the car.”

Isaiah Sansom said he knew almost from the time he started school that he could understand math concepts that other students struggled with.

“It started in about the fourth or fifth grade, when I started getting awards and I was just really good at math and numbers,” Sansom said. “I was in the sixth grade coding club and I really liked that, so coming here today gave me a chance to see what a career in advanced manufacturing would be like.”

Like a lot of young men his age, Sansom has dreams of a career in professional athletics (basketball is his preferred sport), but knows that he should cultivate his natural academic gifts as well.

Bardo said parents are sometimes a harder sell on a career in advanced manufacturing than students, but progress is being made.

“Parents are so sold on four-year colleges, it’s hard to make them aware of the opportunities that are available right here in this area,” Bardo said. “You can go from high school to trade school and explore all of these options and what is available to our students.”

Mubea has invested more than $160 million in Northern Kentucky. The company employs 10,500 worldwide, including 1,400 in the region.

Other Northern Kentucky companies are also participating in Manufacturing Day 2018. Balluff, located in Florence, is hosting tours of its facility  as part of a manufacturing expo today.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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