Husted Brings Workforce Tour to Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Young people are under the impression that choosing the skilled trades means they are shutting the door on the path to college, a myth Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he wants to dispel.

Husted, who leads the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, visited Brilex Industries Monday afternoon, the final stop of the day on his Statewide Workforce Tour. The lieutenant governor toured Brilex before leading a roundtable discussion with area manufacturers and training partners.

The purpose of the tour is to identify ways the state can support efforts on the ground, and to learn about and “draw attention to the things that are working,” he said. In many cases training programs for the skilled trades exist, but the challenge is getting people into them, he said.

“People think if they go to a career center they can’t go to college. I want to change that mentality,” Husted said. “You can go to the career center, learn the skills to become an industry-certified machinist or other type of manufacturing skill and also get college credits at the same time.”

The income from a career in the trades also can provide a secure income for those pursuing higher education, he said, also emphasizing that such training is often free to students through the state of Ohio.

“It is a pathway. It’s a secure pathway that exists and so we just need to convince more people of its virtue,” he said.

Demand for individuals in the skilled trades is such that there are more than 200 openings just for machinists locally, said Ryan Engelhardt, plant manager at Brilex.

“All of our machining students right now are currently employed, and they’re not done yet – non-credit and credit,” said Ryan Pasco, director of engineering and energy initiatives at Eastern Gateway Community College.

Brilex, along with several other organizations represented at Monday’s roundtable, is part of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, which was formed to address the skills gap. “We’re competitors but we work toward a common goal,” Engelhardt said.

“What we’re trying to do collectively is fill the top of the funnel. It doesn’t matter what kind of job it is or what position it is,” said Chris Allen, North America talent acquisition manager for Vallourec. “We do not have enough overall.”

Though they acknowledged the value of a four-year degree, participants in the roundtable also said it wasn’t the correct path for everyone. Several also discussed fighting misconceptions about manufacturing, including cleanliness of the workplace and safety concerns.

“In career tech, we constantly fight the stereotype of the old 1980s career center,” said Jeremy Corbisello, career tech director and assistant superintendent of the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center. “As much outreach and advertising as we do, we’re not reaching those pockets because a lot of folks have the misconception that manufacturing is a dirty industry and it’s not.”

Those promoting the skilled trades as an option also fight the “preconceived notion” that there are no jobs in manufacturing, said Traci Hostetler, superintendent of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.

“There are a lot of memories in the region of people who have lost their jobs, factories that have shut down,” Hostetler said. “We’re trying to show everybody this is really a viable option for people… but we are fighting some old, hard feelings around the region.”

The biggest obstacle is that young people don’t know anything about manufacturing, Vallourec’s Allen said. “They’re so far removed from it now that their parents don’t even talk about it. It’s not part of the household,” he said.

Someone coming out today looking for a manufacturing career “has to work a little harder, has to do a bit more to build themselves up,” said Matt Joing, plant manager at Butech Bliss Inc., Salem. Once they have those skills and credentials, they are in a much better position than they might have been 30 years ago when their mill job went away. With the correct credentials, certifications and experience, “you can write your ticket to any one of these shops. You can walk in and get hired,” he said.

Roundtable participants urged Husted to do what he could to promote careers as well as financial assistance for sector partnerships.

Emily Fabiano, interim director of the state workforce transformation office, urged the manufacturers and educators to participate in In-Demand Jobs Week May 6 though 10.

“The purpose is to promote the careers that are in demand in folks backyards throughout Ohio,” she said. “If you have an opportunity to open up your facility to students, parents, teachers and the community at large, please do that. Please let us know because we want to help you promote that.”

Engelhardt illustrated the value of an organization like MVMC, pointing out that a year ago there was no local program for fitters. The coalition was able to step in and work with its partners on the educational side to put together a program that now has eight students.

Pictured: Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Tours Brilex Industries with plant manager Ryan Engelhardt.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.