Manufacturers Coalition Reviews Goals, Progress

YOUNGSTOWN – Facing a growing workforce shortage in manufacturing and skilled trades, industry leaders, educators and state agency officials discussed innovative initiatives to find employees at the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition quarterly meeting Friday.

MVMC Executive Director Jessica Borza reviewed measurements of initiatives that are underway, identified lessons learned and outlined expansion efforts to more than 50 people, mostly members of the coalition.

Measurements of outreach efforts, apprenticeship program growth, expanding talent pipelines are a few initiatives to fill jobs in northeast Ohio. 

There are 2,316 open manufacturing jobs in northeast Ohio, according data in the 2019 State of Northeast Ohio Manufacturing Report. In a survey of 380 manufacturers, 86% said it’s difficult to attract workers. That difficulty results in 60% of respondents saying it is hindering growth, Borza reported.

MVMC has four benchmark areas: outreach and marketing, education and innovation, leadership and capacity building, and policy development. 

More than 4,000 students have been reached through outreach efforts such as talks, job shadowing, tours and other projects. A targeted outreach campaign resulted in 2.8 million exposures with 63 inquiries for welding, 49 in machining and 17 for maintenance, Borza said.

One of the biggest takeaways from surveys is that 60% of students indicated they want to earn and learn. 

While the campaign had a receptive audience for manufacturing careers and raised awareness in high school age audiences, no leads were generated. It did, however, generate 194 leads from adult career switchers.

Sandy Furano, director of Mahoning Valley Regional Council of Governments, proposed that the group consider sponsoring a Manufacturing Expo similar to what the skill trades did this fall at Canfield Fairgrounds that saw 4,2000 students from 50 school district. Students had hands-on experiences that introduced them to trades. 

Coalition goals also include building awareness to generate outreach leads in machining and welding at Columbiana Career and Technical Center, industrial maintenance, machining and welding at Eastern Gateway Community College, welding at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, and machining and welding at Trumbull County Career and Technical Center.

Eastern Gateway Community College is revamping one of its labs for industrial maintenance, with a target completion date of January.

A statewide effort is under way to increase programs in automation and robotics, as few exist. The group is pursuing state funding for local mapping of equipment available and what is needed. 

MVMC is an industry led coalition formed to address regional needs fro manufactures to prosper and provide career pathways. Advocacy efforts to get state funding for these sector partners came to fruition when Gov. Mike DeWine included $5 million in the state budget for sector partnerships. 

“We’ve been advocating for this and it’s something that I’m really proud of,” Borza said. “Sector partnerships are a generic term for the MVMC is. Many groups in the state are replicating our model.”

There are 11 in the state and Borza said many are “bubbling up.” 

Apprenticeships are helping with worker shortages. A three-year, $2.9 million Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities grant for an 11-county region in Ohio and Pennsylvania will fund such programs in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. 

One focus of the grant is high school pre-apprenticeships for career and technical juniors and seniors who must meet selection criteria. Companies must offer registered apprenticeships. 

The program is now offered to students as young as 16. Several minor labor law exemptions applied to students and employers. A local MVMC member from Pennex is part of a workgroup in Columbus to define approved tools for younger students 

“We didn’t realize how many interested growing beyond apprenticeships through internal pathways,” Borza said.

Part of the coalition’s expansion effort for this program will be to invest in career coaching toward advancement, she said.

The state has made strides in apprenticeships with 219 registered apprentices, 108 are individuals and 111 are group-sponsored. The highest discipline field is machining with 67, followed by 45 apprentices in tool- and die-making.

Borza said $3,000 for reimbursements remains for companies who take on apprentices. 

The state’s new TechCred program that pays up to $2,000 to train workers to reach certification in specific industries is a way for companies to leverage funds for apprenticeships. The first window for grants is closed. Another round for submissions should begin sometime in January. 

Pictured: Jeremy Corbisello, director/assistant superintendent of Columbiana County Career & Technical Center talks to members of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

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