$2.9M Grant Project Recruits 300 Manufacturing Apprentices

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Eighteen Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition members were among 70 manufacturers in the region to participate in the American Apprenticeship Initiative grant, which reached its five-year goal of enrolling 300 registered apprentices.

In 2015, MVMC was part of the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, which was awarded a $2.9 million grant. The group encompassed manufacturers in 14 counties in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including Ashtabula, Columbiana, Geauga, Mahoning, Portage and Trumbull counties in Ohio, and Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties in Pennsylvania.

With 2,833 manufacturing openings annually in the region and 6,686 adults over the age of 55 set to retire within the next decade, the goal of the network was to fill critical gaps through targeted recruitment of workers. It targeted veterans, unemployed and underemployed, low-skilled individuals and foster children with group-sponsored, competency-based registered apprenticeships in machining, industrial maintenance mechanic and welder-fitter occupations.

Over its five-year period – extended to six because of the pandemic – goals were to attract 300 new manufacturing industry apprentices and 200 pre-apprentices by Sept. 30.

“By the end of September we will have achieved both goals,” says Vicki Thompson, AAI grant project manager. “We could have hit the goal a year earlier if it weren’t for COVID.”

Participating employers were reimbursed for a portion of expenses incurred during the training through the grant funding, making it affordable to participate.

“The overwhelming majority of employers tapped into the program to upskill incumbent workers as a commitment and retention strategy,” she says. “And many were less concerned about the reimbursement and more interested in plugging into the curriculum we’d established.”

She says it has really benefited them – particularly smaller employers who might find it cost-prohibitive and paperwork-intensive to not have to administer and organize their own registered apprenticeship programs.

Despite the grant’s conclusion, MVMC is still able to assist manufacturers that want to add apprentices and/or apprenticeship programs.

Photo by Rob Lambert on Unsplash

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.