Manufacturers Coalition Caps Off Busy Year

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition on Thursday concluded an active year with plans to expand several of its initiatives in 2023.

“One of the things we’re most excited about is all the activity related to our youth outreach,” said Jessica Borza, MVMC’s executive director. This year, MVMC helped coordinate summer manufacturing camps, tours, hands-on activities and other efforts designed to introduce young people to careers in manufacturing.

“We have a lot more in store for 2023,” Borza said shortly after MVMC finished its all-member meeting at Penguin City Brewing Co.

On Thursday, MVMC announced it was awarded a $25,000 grant from The Youngstown Foundation to help promote its youth outreach programs.

Among the projects slated for next year is a type of traveling road show that would take manufactured products into the classroom so students are able to see these components firsthand and how they are made, said Julie Michael Smith, MVMC’s program manager.

“It’s one thing for students to see a picture of what you’re all manufacturing, but for them to be able to hold it and feel it really makes a difference,” she said.

The effort would also include new lessons for middle school students that would be made available to educators in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, she said.

MVMC was established 11 years ago as a consortium of manufacturers, education professionals, workforce and economic development agencies and nonprofits to collectively address shortages in the industrial workforce across the Mahoning Valley. Today, MVMC boasts more than 70 members.

The coalition helps secure grant monies, administers and facilitates training and apprenticeship programs and assists with new curriculum related to workforce development in the manufacturing sector.

Another core initiative underway in 2023 will be expanding the coalition’s diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs in the coming year, Smith said.

Smith said during the first quarter of next year, MVMC will be rolling out roundtables and developing employers guides dedicated to DEI, especially engaging with agencies that serve veterans and those with disabilities, and women in manufacturing and youth outreach, she noted.

“This is in response to what we’re hearing from the membership,” she said. “You’re interested in connecting with these talent pools and are looking for information on how to attract, recruit and retain.”

MVMC was also actively involved in the Ohio to Work program in conjunction with the Mahoning Columbiana Training Association, Trumbull County Ohio Means Jobs, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Flying High Inc. and other partners.

MVMC sponsored or hosted eight hiring events and joined with the chamber-led Regional Workforce Coalition.

“We want to make sure we’re supporting our manufacturers, upskilling their current employees,” Borza said. “We’re doing a lot with our ‘Earn and Learn’ programs and working with our local training providers. We’ve exceeded all of our goals.”

Another success this year was MVMC’s Work Advance program, Borza said. “We were able to train more than 90 individuals who had no prior manufacturing experience,” she said. “Those are net new manufacturing employees who wouldn’t have otherwise applied to manufacturing. We’re going to double down on this in the coming year.”

Borza also highlighted other accomplishments MVMC achieved in 2022.

This summer, MVMC was part of an Ohio consortium that received $23.5 million as a result of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Good Jobs Challenge grant. “We brought a little shy of $1 million to the Mahoning Valley,” she said. Over the next three years, the $930,000 grant will allow the MVMC to train more people through initiatives such as the Work Advance program.

Creating a broader network of partnerships across Ohio is also fundamental to sustaining and building a trained workforce, Borza added.

“It’s really exciting for us to have a network of 14 other industry sector partnerships across the state,” Borza said. “It’s really created this powerful learning community where we can share ideas.”

Pictured at top: Jessica Borza, executive director of the MVMC, and Alex Hertzer, assistant director.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.