DCED’s Fourth Summer Manufacturing Camp


GREENVILLE – July 17 through July 21 Darke County Economic Development has been hosting its Summer Manufacturing camp. This camp is for Darke County junior high students entering seventh and eighth grades. This is an interactive camp to expose students to the world of manufacturing and show the wide variety of manufacturing careers available locally.

This is the fourth year DCED has put on this camp. The first one was in 2019 and only had eight campers. This year, that number has grown to 22 campers, including two going into ninth grade who are helping design a next-level camp for ninth and tenth graders.

Local manufacturers came out throughout the week to provide a presentation on their company, a topic for the day, and an interactive project. The students then visit the manufacturers to tour the facility and participate in a hands-on activity.

Monday, Whirlpool presented on Safety. Tuesday, Fort Recovery Industries presented on Quality. Wednesday, Midmark presented on Process. Thursday, JAFE Decorating presented on Design and Innovation. Friday, Edison State CC presented on Exploring Your Path.

“Our manufacturers are tasked each day with doing an activity and presenting information on the topic,” Tamala Marley, Workforce Specialist for Darke County Economic Development, said. “And then, when we go to the facility in the afternoon, we do a tour, and they show how that topic applies in real life.”

The students also take what is called the Holland Assessment tool. This interest survey shows the kids what type of career field they may want to enter. This includes Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional and Realistic. Each manufacturer provides examples of jobs that fit into those different categories, giving the students real-life examples of careers they may be interested in.

“We build on the generic skills needed in every career field,” Marley said. “We talk about building teamwork, communication, continuous improvement, personal responsibility and ownership, problem-solving, and teamwork. Those are qualities that we want to see in our workers and are important for their success no matter what field they go into.”

Many manufacturers share their own stories and how they got to the job position they are in now. These are anywhere from graduating high school and going straight into the workforce to going to a four-year university. This lets the campers hear all kinds of paths someone can take.

“They hear a lot of different pathways and understand that not everyone has the same path to things that they are passionate about and that they enjoy,” Marley said.

The camp and its team are a leading example of continuous improvement as they consistently take feedback from the students and apply it to the camp to make it as interesting and exciting for the campers as possible.

Positive Statement Board

One of the ways they did this is with their positivity statements board. In previous camp surveys, something that stood out to leaders was that students loved the positive environment that they have created. DCED wanted to elevate that positivity.

“The counselors came up with the idea,” Marley said. They wanted to have the kids come up with positive thoughts to share each day. The camper writes down their positive thoughts or comments for the day, and then the counselors select a top two for the day, and those two get a prize.”

This camp is something the students really enjoy. It is a positive learning environment, and the campers get excited about their new experiences daily.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said one first-year camper going into seventh grade. “We’ve learned about always improving; you can always improve. It’s better to improve and remain positive about stuff, learning from your mistakes. We are all super nice to each other, and we all motivate each other.”

Two campers enjoyed their time in this camp so much that they are working to create a future next-level camp for ninth and tenth-grade students. The two of them are heading into ninth grade and wanted to create opportunities for ninth and tenth graders to have the experience that the junior high students have gotten.

“One of the things I wanted to see with a next-level camp is that a lot of them want jobs around this area, and many manufacturers are looking for help.” said one of the ninth-grade campers. “So if we can create a camp for the older kids, it could put a lot of companies’ names out there for the students so they can apply for jobs.”

“When we create this camp, the manufacturers we visit will share job opportunities that older kids in high school and do and share how they can work around school schedules,” said the other ninth-grade camper. “There would be new manufacturers, and we would be working on problem-solving and people skills, stuff they can use in real life. We want to get more hands-on.”

DCED hopes to have this next-level camp for ninth and tenth-grade students soon.

Reaching the kids at the junior high age was done for a couple of reasons. Kids decide what they want to do much younger, being more open to sharing information with their parents at this age, and giving them a head start on exploring careers.

“Career exploration is just as much about eliminating things as it is about finding things,” Marley said. “We all kind of figure that out along the pathway, but for some of us, it takes a lot of experience to get there. If we can hone that in and what our spot is in the world a little younger, it just helps us to have that many more opportunities to experience it.”

Heather Suerdieck of Inside Out Coaching was one of the camp leaders helping to run the camp. Suerdieck is happy with how well the camp has gone and praised Tamala Marley and her team.

“Tamala and her team do such a good job of growing students,” Suerdieck said. “You can’t teach people to care; Tamala always cares.”

Marley and Suerdieck went on to talk about how a lot of people have stated they wished they had something like this when they were younger.

“There is that saying, ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger,’ it’s almost like create the spaces you needed when you were younger,” Suerdieck said.

“There are a lot of people helping us do that,” Marla continued. “This is such a group effort it would never be possible without the support of the companies, the support of Edison, the support of the school systems, and the bus drivers. Everybody has been just so great.”

The closing program is Friday afternoon for Campers and their parents. Campers will share their experiences for the week and what they learned about themselves and local manufacturers.

Funding for this event was provided by donations through the Darke County Foundation, the West Tech Prep Region, and Edison State Community College.

A thank you to Greenville City Schools and Superintendent Doug Fries for the use of the Advanced Manufacturing Lab and providing transportation to tours, Heather Suerdieck of Inside out Coaching, Camp Facilitator Susan Ahrens, Camp assistant Mary Lee Moore, Career Tech Secretary, Edison State Community College, and Mrs. Lori Hoover and the Interactive Media students at Greenville C-TEC.