Coalition Seeks Qualified Candidates for Manufacturing Jobs

CANFIELD, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is casting a wide a net to attract candidates to fill manufacturing positions now and in the future. But at the same time, the coalition wants to ensure it is finding the right people for those jobs.

“This requires as much knowledge above the shoulders as there is power below the shoulders,” Bob Lidle, industrial training coordinator at Trumbull Career & Technical Center in Champion Township, told the coalition at its quarterly meeting Friday.

Right now, “anybody who basically walks off the street” is a candidate, he said. “It doesn’t mean that that can’t work. It certainly has worked but we want to get the right people working in your shops, producing quality products in a quality manner in quality time,” he continued.

“I’m not saying we’re going down the wrong path here. At the same time we need to tweak that,” he added.

If there’s an opportunity to “reposition these occupations as being more prestigious than they’ve been seen as the past,” the coalition “would love to get to the point where we have enough interest that we can start to interview candidates and make it a more selective process,” said Jessica Borza, the coalitions executive director.

“It’s not a matter of reinventing the wheel. If you look at the building trades, they already have this,” Lidle said. “To cast the net as wide as possible is certainly the goal, but at the same time you don’t want to waste your time or a company’s time.”

Incorporating that concept into a new strategic plan will be among the topics addressed at the coalition’s summit and annual meeting Sept. 22. “We want to look to our membership to add in anything that they think we could be doing more of or better — if they’ve seen new ideas or best practices elsewhere,” Borza said. “We want to refresh our plans and reprioritize for moving forward.”

The coalition has achieved or made progress on 80% its master plan over the past four years, according to Borza.

During Friday’s meeting, J. Diane Karlin, employer engagement coordinator for the Oh-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative, reported that more than $300,000 remains from a federal grant to provide training for manufacturing positions.

Under the grant, employers can receive up to 75% reimbursement on costs they incur for training in house or by a third-party provider and 100% reimbursement for assessment/credentialing costs, she said. Training must begin before Oct. 31 and end by April 30, and result in a credential endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers.

“We want to make sure we’re not sending money back to D.C. that could be used to offset your training costs,” Borza said. “The list of NAM-endorsed credentials is a long list.”

Members also saw samples of the 3-minute and 30-second videos prepared to promote manufacturing careers to parents, students and educators. In addition to being available on the IndustryNeedsYou website, copies of the videos have been provided to schools, said Kyle Kiraly, leader of the coalition outreach and marketing team.

The coalition also is planning television, radio and billboard advertising. “We’re trying to maximize the amount of people we’re reaching,” Kiraly said.

Among the guests Friday was Jimmie Bruce, the new president of Eastern Gateway Community College.

“It’s an opportunity for us as a community college to make sure that we’re aware of what the current industry needs are, an opportunity for us to develop partnerships, so that we can create avenues to create a higher-skilled workforce,” he said.

Eastern Gateway will offer courses in advanced machining for the first time this fall.

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