KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Nearly 900 eighth grade students from the Kosciusko County got a close-up look at careers and how local industries use advanced manufacturing to create a range of products during DiscoverME (Manufacturing Experiences) week events organized by OrthoWorx from May 2–4.
As eighth grade students near entry into high school and a crucial time for career pathing, DiscoverME introduces them to local industry, showcasing career opportunities and educational pathways to those careers available in 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 excites students about a range of STEM careers and introduces manufacturing at a pivotal time when students are planning high school coursework and begin exploring career interests.
Local middle schools from Warsaw, Wawasee and Whitko participated in the full day of tours during DiscoverME. Participating students were able to see machining and products up close and engage in hands-on activities at both their local career center and Ivy Tech Community College’s Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center.
“Students touring OAMTC at Ivy Tech in Warsaw experienced a spinal implant saw bone demonstration with a team from Orthopediatrics, a live CNC machine demonstration, a dual credit tutorial with a team from Ivy Tech, an implant and anatomy matching activity with an orthopedic engineer, and a virtual reality training module used in medical education team from Zimmer Biomet,” said Dr. Allyn Decker, director community engagement from Ivy Tech in Warsaw. “We know that incoming high school freshman have many educational and career opportunities ahead of them and believe the DiscoverME tours are vitally important in helping them see what their local community has to offer,” Decker continued.
Warsaw and Whikto schools also completed several in-class lessons leading up to their field trips, preparing students for the tours and helping them build an appreciation for advanced manufacturing, regardless of their career interest. A survey following the tours showed that 33% of students want to know more about manufacturing classes they could take in high school and 53% of students responded they were inclined to pursue a career in manufacturing.
Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert stated, “Warsaw Community Schools is extremely thankful for OrthoWorx, along with local industry and education partners in organizing the DiscoverME tours. Lakeview and Edgewood students were able to learn and understand about our local Orthopedic industry through this hands-on and experiential learning program. Introduction to our local industry aids students in making informed decisions about their future academic pathways and career choices.”
Local companies featured as tour stops included: DePuy Synthes, Instrumental Machine & Development, Paragon Medical, Polywood, Precision Medical Technologies, Medartis and Zimmer Biomet. Students were able to see the full process of manufacturing, from raw materials to products ready to ship during their tours. They also learned from nearly 100 volunteers from industry about the different education paths they took to these high-demand, high-wage careers in local manufacturing.
The Warsaw Area Career Center, Wawasee’s Pathway’s and the Whitko Career Academy offer a variety of programs to support the demands of our 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, often times with financial support of their employer, helping eliminate the debt that can accumulate with higher education for students.
“DiscoverME tours have not taken place since 2019 due to the COVID pandemic and the first year back felt like we didn’t miss a beat,” said Nichole Rouached, director of talent at OrthoWorx. “Our industry volunteers were enthusiastic to welcome students again to their companies, students were engaged asking good questions and many found something in manufacturing that would be of interest to them for a career,” continued Rouached.
“Bringing back DiscoverME tours is just the beginning for ME programs in schools, with an experienced and dynamic team now at OrthoWorx, we’ll be able to create more opportunities for students throughout their K-12 experience to engage with our manufacturing and orthopedic partners. With talent attraction being a key area of focus for OrthoWorx and with the Orthopedic Capital of the World® in these students’ backyards, our goal is to be able to excite them about local opportunities with our companies serving the global orthopedic market.”