MVMC Mentors Mercer and Lawrence Counties

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is in the early stages of working with Mercer and Lawrence counties so they can establish an industry sector partnership of their own in western Pennsylvania.

Industry leaders in the two counties have reached out to the coalition to collaborate on a 90-day project in which the MVMC will work with them to set up organizational, staffing, budget and strategic plans to develop a manufacturers coalition similar to MVMC, said Julie Michael Smith, MVMC project manager.

The plan is to replicate the coalition to represent manufacturers in Mercer and Lawrence counties, Smith told guests July 1 at MVMC’s all-member meeting at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

There might be additional opportunities for collaboration in the future that could benefit the five-county region, she added. The U.S. Department of Labor has made funding available that could be used to expand the partnership between MVMC and the new Pennsylvania coalition.

“We worked together to submit an application for that,” Smith said. “If successful in securing this funding, it would run until September 2026. It would be a cross-border collaboration.”

The organizations are seeking $1 million from the grant program, Smith said. “It would also allow us to take the WorkAdvance program and create more youth WorkAdvance programs. We want to be able to replicate that.”

The funding would also allow the coalitions to provide training for workers and more resources for employers for outreach initiatives, such as programs targeting veterans, returning citizens and women.

“Hopefully, we’ll be successful in securing this funding,” Smith said. The awards would be announced in September and work on the programs could begin as early as October.

MVMC is working to execute Ohio’s electric-vehicle workforce strategy locally. “We’ll be undertaking a master planning process,” said Jessica Borza, executive director.

The technician training aspect of the rollout plan shares curriculum that could apply across the industrial economy. “About 80% of the skills and competencies necessary for EV technicians are also necessary for industrial maintenance positions [in]robotics, aerospace, defense, semiconductors,” she said.

Borza said MVMC would work with its workforce development and training partners to review the new programs and compare them to existing initiatives and whether they need to be enhanced.

Meanwhile, MVMC and its partners are conducting outreach programs this summer that target young people and women. Amelia Taggart, director of workforce at Eastern Gateway Community College, said the school’s all-women’s WorkAdvance cohort, which began July 10, introduces women to manufacturing.

Integrated into the program is the Women In Sustainable Employment initiative. The career exploration workshop spans 12 to 18 hours and can be adjusted to accommodate schedules.

Other coalition partners championed the WorkAdvance initiative, which helped to train 90 individuals in 2022 who had no manufacturing experience.

Sherry Cross, assistant principal at Choffin Career & Technical Center in Youngstown, said WorkAdvance introduced high school students to careers in manufacturing. As part of the program, they toured the Trivium plant in Youngstown, which makes aluminum containers.

“We need to make sure our students realize the options,” she said.