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Cooper Joins 'Dream Team' Initiative

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Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has joined Dream It. Do It., a Manufacturing Institute (MI) initiative that aims to enhance the image of careers in manufacturing and address the widening skills gap in the nation’s manufacturing workforce pipeline.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of our economy, and we all should be concerned about the supply of future talent with the desire and capability to make the products that keep our economy strong,” says Brenda Harmon, chief human resources officer for Cooper.

“It’s not just that demographics are working against us, we also have a generation of young people who have been steered away from manufacturing or at least not encouraged to explore good jobs in manufacturing that may or may not require a college or technical degree.

“As a result, hundreds of great jobs in manufacturing go unfilled as some young adults find themselves unemployed or underemployed and possibly saddled with significant college debt. We have jobs for those with a good work ethic and a desire to learn—with or without a college degree—and we must be working with parents, educators and community leaders to help students understand the wide range of opportunities that exist within Cooper and manufacturing in general. If we want students to think about a career in manufacturing, we need to help them understand how exciting and technology-driven today’s manufacturing industry really is,” says Harmon.

In Cooper’s first year of involvement in Dream It. Do It., the company will focus its efforts in U.S. communities where it operates tire manufacturing facilities, including Findlay, Ohio; Tupelo, Miss. and Texarkana, Ark.

As part of the effort, Cooper has appointed a Dream Team, which is composed of more than 25 employees who hold a wide variety of positions within these facilities and at Cooper’s corporate headquarters and technical centers, also located in Findlay.

Throughout the year, the Dream Team will execute multiple programs in local communities, including children’s mentoring efforts, teaching in local middle schools using interactive, manufacturing-related curriculum, and engaging in a number of other community-based efforts such as fairs and speaking engagements to drive broad awareness about careers in manufacturing.

Cooper celebrates Manufacturing Day throughout October

Among Cooper’s many initiatives is a special focus on activities during October to coincide with the celebration of Manufacturing Day, which this year is Oct. 2. Cooper will be involved in activities in its communities throughout the entire month:

In Findlay, Cooper Dream Team members and others will host approximately 800 eighth-grade students Oct. 13 through Oct. 16 for the Cooper Tire Manufacturing Experience, which will bring the students on site at Cooper where they will move through a series of interactive experiences designed to spark their interest in manufacturing.

In Tupelo, Cooper Dream Team members and others will participate in the Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo on October 6 and 7 where approximately 3,000 eighth-grade students will visit a variety of company-sponsored exhibits at the BancorpSouth Arena. This event is sponsored by the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund and CREATE Foundation.

In Texarkana, the Dream Team and others will host the Cooper Tire Manufacturing Experience at the Texarkana Convention Center on October 20 and 21 for approximately 1,100 eighth-grade students. Those who attend will have the opportunity to experience what it is like on a manufacturing floor.

Students who attend Manufacturing Experience events at Cooper will be encouraged to share their experiences through social media using #cooperiscool and #mfgday15, which will expand awareness of manufacturing to friends and family across the U.S. All students who attend will receive manufacturing safety gear.

“I am excited to be involved in Cooper’s first Dream Team because I know we can make a significant positive impact in our communities,” says Luke Schroeder, mechanical project engineer at Cooper’s Findlay tire manufacturing plant. “This is a great way to reach out to youth and educate them on career possibilities in manufacturing while also countering any misconceptions they may have. Today’s manufacturing world is very technical and dynamic. It’s important for kids and their parents, teachers and others to know that.”

As a parallel program, Cooper has instituted a Centennial Scholarship program open to the children of employees who intend to pursue a career in manufacturing and meet certain other requirements. The scholarship was inaugurated this year in recognition of Cooper’s 100-year anniversary, which was commemorated in 2014. Three winners were selected in 2015 and are now in their first year of studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Findlay. Applications open in February 2016, and more information is available at www.community-foundation.com.

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