NEPIRC’S Dream Team Expands Outreach to More Than 7,700 Students Members News January 25, 2024 The Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center’s (NEPIRC’s) Manufacturing Ambassador Dream Team program continued its mission to educate and inspire the region’s future workforce with more than 40 speaking engagements in 2023. Since the program’s launch in January 2023, NEPIRC’s Dream Team Ambassadors participated in 16 career exploration days, 23 in-school presentations and two summer camps. Collectively, these activities engaged with students from more than 40 schools and led to more than 7,700 student interactions and exchanges at high schools, colleges and organizations throughout NEPIRC’s 11-county region. “In its first year of existence, NEPIRC’s Dream Team has surpassed the PA Department of Education and PA Department of Community and Economic Development goals for the program by more than 100% while recruiting twice as many Ambassadors from twice as many companies and presenting to more than ten times as many students as expected,” said Eric Joseph Esoda, president and CEO of NEPIRC. The Dream Team Ambassador program has also exceeded the expectations of students and school administrators from throughout the region. “The Dream Team program has exceeded every expectation and goal set forth since its inception. Through student surveys and positive feedback from school administrators, the Dream Team has proved successful in its objective to change the conversation and perception regarding modern manufacturing careers,” said Jenelle Osborne, Dream Team program coordinator. “Every school our Dream Team has been involved with in either classroom presentations or career exploration days has asked us to come back again to speak to another group of students or participate in an upcoming career fair.” Gabrielle Pidgeon, career counselor at the Carbondale Area High School, has had several interactions with Dream Team Ambassadors. She sees firsthand the positive impact the program is having on her students. “I’ve seen how NEPIRC’s Dream Team Ambassadors are connecting with our students in a real way. To date, our school has engaged with the Dream Team several times, with additional presentations scheduled for this school year. The first Dream Team engagement at Carbondale High School consisted of an ambassador coming in to speak with a small group of students. That student group had such a positive response to the presentation. It also helped reframe my thinking of what manufacturing is, so it was a learning experience for all of us in the room that day,” said Pidgeon. “As a result of the numerous Dream Team visits, the Carbondale High School students are having real conversations with the ambassadors instead of just listening to someone talk to them.” Ambassadors typically bring samples of their company’s products with them — including cans, boxes, military helmets, or sections of heavy construction cables — to the classroom and career exploration day events to help spur interest and conversations with the students. Ask any ambassador and they will say they benefit from the student interactions as much as the students do. Dream Team Ambassador Max McCabe, project manager at Cheetah Chassis in Berwick, had the opportunity to speak with high school students at Northwest Area High School where his grandfather was once the principal. He credits his grandfather’s strong work ethic along with his mother’s advice for the reasons behind pursuing a career in manufacturing. McCabe knows the future of manufacturing in the region rests on the interest of today’s high school students pursuing careers with manufacturing companies. “I think it’s important to recognize that if I am going to have a future in manufacturing, I will need the generations after me to be interested as well. That means getting out there and showing people what goes on in the factories and what type of great opportunities are available to them. I take pride in being a voice that advocates for manufacturing careers, and being an ambassador is a great way to do it,” said McCabe. The PA Department of Education recognized the Dream Team’s efforts and invited NEPIRC to present during a virtual Career Ready PA Coalition Best Practices seminar last June. “The Career Ready PA Coalition team serves to support career and workforce readiness opportunities across the state. Their connections are invaluable in creating awareness statewide to build career pathways for all learners. Our topic of discussion was ‘NEPIRC’s Manufacturing Ambassador Dream Team: An Innovative Approach to Career Exploration and Awareness,’ where we shared the Dream Team’s objectives to raise awareness of the amazing products made in our region, modern technologies used by manufacturing companies and the great careers available in the manufacturing sector,” said Esoda. The Dream Team program gained an overwhelming amount of support from school districts and manufacturing companies in year one. The program has also formed partnerships with multiple regional economic development and workforce partners, including the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, the Berwick Industrial Development Association, the Lackawanna County Workforce Investment & Opportunity Act Board and the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission. The Dream Team was also recognized as a best practice at conferences led by the Northeast Intermediate Unit (NEIU) 18 as well as the PA Department of Education. NEPIRC’s school outreach efforts are made possible by the Pennsylvania Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career Grant approved by the Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) in 2022. Information about the NEPIRC Manufacturing Ambassador Dream Team Program can be found on the program’s new website, NEPIRC.com/DreamTeam. School faculty and administrators interested in having a Dream Team Ambassador speak at a career fair, at a specific classroom or other school event should contact Jenelle Osborne, Dream Team project coordinator, via email at Jenelle@NEPIRC.com.