Building Interest In Manufacturing at an Early Age

$250,000 Award Will Help MVMC Strengthen Youth Outreach

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition looks to take its youth outreach strategy to the next level on the strength of a $250,000 state grant.

The MVMC was one of 12 workforce partnership organizations to receive an award through the Industry Sector Partnership Grant announced Tuesday. The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation awarded $2.5 million in grants to organizations that support the workforce pipeline for industries such as health care, information technology, manufacturing, construction and transportation.

“These awards will jumpstart and expand workforce partnerships across Ohio that are helping more individuals earn the skills needed to successfully find employment,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a prepared statement. “This is real-world skill development where educators and businesses work together to help people gain the skills they need to get hired for jobs that pay well and have a future. Enhancing meaningful partnerships between the business and education community is key to growing Ohio’s workforce and filling in-demand jobs at a time when many people are looking for opportunities, but not sure where to start.”

The MVMC has been speaking with officials at the state level about the value of sector partnerships for a number of years, said Executive Director Jessica Borza. And the fact that the state sees the MVMC as a model they want to invest in, “we couldn’t be more grateful,” she said.

The funds will allow MVMC to rethink it’s youth outreach strategy, Borza said. Much of the organization’s strategy has focused on bringing manufacturers into classrooms to engage with students, hosting events at the Canfield Fairgrounds and offering hands-on activities, she said.

“We want to really package some of those things in a box so we can do more of that,” Borza said, “but also convert a lot of those activities to be virtual.”

Having more virtual opportunities will allow MVMC to reach more students as well as connect with them in the time of COVID, she said.

Additionally, MVMC looks to work with an evaluator to take a fresh look at its programming and offer feedback on what’s working and what more can be done to help move the needle.

The grant will also allow MVMC to make a more concerted effort in reaching out to local manufacturers to be a part of the organization, Borza said, “and make sure that they understand some of the solutions we’ve created over time to develop their workforce.”

Since the coalition was founded in 2011 with 12 manufacturers, it’s organically grown its membership to just under 50, she said. By making a more proactive effort to recruit members, the MVMC can work to strengthen workforce development efforts in the Mahoning Valley.

The other award recipients include Advanced Manufacturing Industry Partnership, Appalachian Ohio Manufacturers’ Coalition, CEA Cleveland Builds, Central Ohio Manufacturing Partnership, ConxusNEO Industry Sector Partnerships, Information Technology Accelerator Partnership, Lorain County Manufacturing Sector Partnership, Ohio IT Apprenticeship Collaborative, Raise the Bar Hancock County, Workforce Connect Manufacturing Sector Partnership and Workforce Partnership of Shelby County.

Industry Sector Partnerships are designed to develop workforce strategies specific to the various regions around the state, with the goal of driving collaboration between local businesses, workforce professionals, education and training providers, and community stakeholders, according to the state’s release. Grant funding will help support the operations of both new and existing Industry Sector Partnerships.

“A skilled workforce will continue to be a cornerstone of our economic strategy moving forward, and Industry Sector Partnerships develop targeted strategies to address regional workforce needs,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency. “We are providing Ohioans with training to grow or start their career.”