MVMC Promotes Careers in Manufacturing

YOUNGSTOWN – When 40-plus area manufacturing companies work collaboratively toward a common goal – even when many of them compete against each other – great work can get done.

The regional sector partnership Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is proving that the workforce development needs so many manufacturers face can be best solved together. 

The organization, formed in 2011, has grown into a state-recognized engine for raising awareness of manufacturing career opportunities and improving the skills of workers to operate and maintain today’s more sophisticated industrial equipment.

“Our mission is simple to explain, but rather challenging to execute,” says Jessica Borza, MVMC executive director. 

MVMC members are largely composed of small- and medium-sized manufacturers in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. The partnership’s aim is to recruit, retain and train the workforce these members collectively need to effectively operate their factories.

“What we’ve learned is there’s a receptive audience for manufacturing careers, both among the current student-age population and adult career-switchers,” Borza says.

To date, MVMC’s efforts have concentrated on developing and promoting welding, machining and industrial maintenance career paths. In 2020, it will expand to automation and robotics. 

“These are the skillsets our member manufacturers said are most in demand because of upcoming retirements and company growth,” Borza says. “We’ve listened to them and engaged our members and education partners to develop the programming. It’s also our charge to populate these classrooms and worksites with quality talent.”

MVMC’s education partners include Eastern Gateway Community College, Choffin and the Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana County Career and Technical centers, as well as Youngstown State University and Kent State University. Efforts include training for existing employees and apprenticeship opportunities for high school students and adults interested in exploring manufacturing careers.

“Our challenges include getting students engaged and participating in what’s available, and improving awareness among the youth population that there are good jobs that don’t require a college degree,” Borza says. 

Complicating this challenge, Borza says, is that each year is a new set of parents and students to make aware of these programs. To that end, MVMC engaged a local public relations firm to support this effort. 

In 2019 MVMC reached more than 4,000 students and enrolled 478 participants in its targeted apprenticeship and training programs; both are significant increases from 2018.

One example of a successful MVMC initiative is its preapprenticeship program for high school students. Participants must meet selection criteria, including attendance and grades. Last year, eight juniors were placed in area manufacturing environments and exposed to various career opportunities through the summer months. A state grant covered much of their wages.

Most preapprentices are still working with their host company and are looking forward to full-time employment upon graduation.

“Through this program we learned students prefer working at companies that have registered apprenticeship programs because they can see a path for both employment and advancement,” Borza says. 

Further, companies appreciate the opportunity to connect with the schools’ top students through an organized talent pipeline like this program offers.

Another MVMC initiative that will continue into 2020 is adding to and diversifying its membership. To that end, in 2019 it added extrusion companies.

“Part of our pitch is for every dollar in membership dues; we’ve turned it into more than $5,000 in grants that all the members can benefit from,” Borza says. “Extruders now see the value in what we can bring.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.