MVMC Works with Mercer, Lawrence Counties on Manufacturers Coalition

CANFIELD, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is in the early stages of working with Mercer and Lawrence counties so they can establish a new industry sector partnership of their own in western Pennsylvania.

Industry leaders in the two counties have reached out to the coalition to collaborate on a 90-day project in which the MVMC will work with them to set up organizational, staffing, budget and strategic plans to develop a manufacturers coalition similar to MVMC, said Julie Michael Smith, MVMC project manager.

The plan is to replicate the coalition to represent manufacturers in Mercer and Lawrence counties, Smith told guests at MVMC’s all-member meeting at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center on Thursday.

Yet there might be additional opportunities for collaboration in the future that could benefit the entire five-county region over the next three years, she added. The U.S. Department of Labor has made funding available that could be used to expand the partnership between the new MVMC and the new Pennsylvania coalition.

“We worked together to submit an application for that,” Smith said. “If successful in securing this funding, it would actually run until September of 2026. It would also be a cross-border collaboration.”

The organizations are seeking $1 million from the grant program, Smith said. “It would also allow us to take the WorkAdvance program and create more youth WorkAdvance programs. We want to be able to replicate that.”

The funding would also allow the coalitions to provide training for workers and more resources for employers for outreach initiatives, such as programs targeting veterans, returning citizens and women in manufacturing. 

Future collaboration could also strengthen the manufacturing and regional economic development strategies across the five counties, Smith said.

“Hopefully, we’ll be successful in securing this funding,” she said. Smith said the awards would be announced in September and work on the programs could begin as early as October.

MVMC is also assuming an active role in executing the state of Ohio’s electric-vehicle workforce strategy on a local level, which was announced at Mahoning County Career & Technical Center earlier this month, said Jessica Borza, MVMC’s executive director.

“We’ll be undertaking a master planning process to incorporate this,” she said.

Borza said the technician training aspect of the rollout plan shares common curriculum that could apply across all sectors of the industrial economy. “About 80% of the skills and competencies necessary for EV technicians are also necessary for industrial maintenance positions across all sectors – robotics, aerospace, defense, seimconductors,” she said.

Borza noted as MVMC dives into the details of the program, it would work with its workforce development and training partners to review the new programs and compare them to existing initiatives and whether they need to be enhanced.

“They’re thinking about this as a force multiplier,” Borza said of the state’s rollout. “If you can use it to increase enrollment in all these education and training programs as a feeder into all of our manufacturing occupations including EVs, that would be great.”

MVMC and its partners also announced programs this summer to improve outreach to both young people and women.

Amelia Taggart, director of workforce at Eastern Gateway Community College, said on July 10 the college will begin an all-women’s WorkAdvance cohort that introduces women to manufacturing. Integrated into the program is the Women In Sustainable Employment, or WISE, initiative. It is a career exploration workshop spanning 12 to 18 hours that can be adjusted to accommodate schedules.

“It fit perfectly with this program,” Taggart said. 

The program was marketed to not just college and high school students, but to middle and elementary students as well, she noted.

Other coalition partners championed the WorkAdvance initiative, which helped train 90 individuals in 2022 who had no prior manufacturing experience.

Sherry Cross, assistant principal at Choffin Career & Technical Center in Youngstown, said the WorkAdvance program helped introduce high school students to careers in manufacturing. As part of the program, students toured the Trivium plant in Youngstown, which manufactures aluminum containers for the beverage and beauty products, among other customers.

“We need to make sure our students realize the options,” she said. “These are careers.”

Cross also emphasized that manufacturers should make an effort to market their potential to area schools to make students, administrators and teachers aware of their needs.

“Introduce yourself to the eighth-grader, that ninth-grader, that 10th-grader,” she said. “They want to work.”

Other STEM-related programs slated for the rest of this year are the YWCA’s Summer Manufacturing Camp, now underway; Trumbull Career & Technical Center’s summer camp; the Western Reserve Career Day; and Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology’s Summer Manufacturing Institute and Silly Science Sunday.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.