WARSAW — OrthoWorx has returned this spring, post-pandemic, to in-person “DiscoverME” programming in area schools. The “ME” stands for manufacturing experiences.
During the first week of May, DiscoverME programs engaged all eighth-grade students in the Warsaw, Wawasee and Whitko school corporations with manufacturing plant tours and curriculum built into their classes focusing on career opportunities within advanced manufacturing.
ME programs introduce students to local industry, showcasing career opportunities and educational pathways for eighth-grade students in Kosciusko County and the surrounding area. Manufacturing is a central part of Kosciusko County’s economic landscape, serving industries including agribusiness, automotive, marine, home furnishings and medical devices, specifically orthopedics. DiscoverME is intended to excite students about a range of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and introduces manufacturing at a time when students are planning high school coursework and begin exploring career interests.
DiscoverME was launched in 2018 with about 1,100 eighth graders from Kosciusko County participating in the program, which is related to National Manufacturing Week and was created by OrthoWorx and a team of summer interns.
“OrthoWorx and industry partners saw so much success from DiscoverME, that we began planning out other ME opportunities, like RealME that we launched with all Kosciusko County sophomores in 2019,” said Nichole S. Rouached, director of talent at OrthoWorx.
“Unfortunately, we had to move to a virtual program once the pandemic broke out, as we couldn’t provide tours of local companies, but this ultimately led to us creating, more lessons to showcase advanced manufacturing and our local industry,” Rouached said. “To our surprise, students remained highly engaged and our data showed that students still sustained a 70% greater awareness of local industry and career opportunities following participation in the virtual program.”
As Kosciusko County schools and OrthoWorx continued to recover and regroup in 2021-2022, DiscoverME was paused until this school year, when tours to all corporate partners could be possible again.
Local companies featured as tour stops this year included: DePuy Synthes, Instrumental Machine & Development, Paragon Medical, Polywood, Precision Medical Technologies (PreMed Tec), Medartis and Zimmer Biomet. The students also toured Ivy Tech Community College’s Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and their high school’s designated career centers. The Warsaw Area Career Center, Wawasee’s Pathways and the Whitko Career Academy offer a variety of programs to support the demands of local industry. Students, while still in high-school, can enroll in programs that help prepare them for entry into the workforce or support their next step in higher education, oftentimes with the support of their employer, helping eliminate debt that can accumulate with higher education for students.
“We’re incredibly grateful to our local partners and funders for enabling us to resume these pivotal educational partnerships and even expand on opportunities that excite our youth about the range of manufacturing and STEM careers they can find in their backyards,” Rouached said.
“Resuming DiscoverME and building our OrthoWorx team to include a new full-time talent coordinator, Erin Serafino, to support our K-12 initiatives like ME signals just the beginning for how we can support schools, educators, industry and our future workforce,” she said.
OrthoWorx President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Vitoux said: “We are thrilled to be back alongside our industry, education and community partners with the re-launch of the DiscoverME program and tremendously excited about what lies ahead for the Orthopedic Capital of the World as we work together advancing the talent and innovation needed for future success.”