CINCINNATI -- More state support is in the works for local colleges and universities in Ohio looking to grow participation in their manufacturing programs to meet industry needs.
Earlier this month, Ohio manufacturers met to discuss what issues they face as an industry. According to the Ohio Department of Higher Education, 84 percent of participating manufacturers counted workforce as their largest business concern and 90 percent said they believe the image of manufacturing contributes to the challenge of securing that workforce.
Manufacturing’s image issue is what the Ohio Department of Higher Education is hoping to help fix through a partnership with Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, a federally funded institute dedicated to developing and deploying advanced lightweight materials manufacturing technologies and programs to prepare the workforce.
Currently, there are almost 200,000 open manufacturing jobs at OhioMeansJobs.com. The average annual wage of workers in the industry in Ohio is $55,733. – The Ohio Manufacturers Association
“Our educational institutions have expressed, as they look at their numbers in the skilled trade spaces especially, that they have programs but don’t have a large volume of students going into those programs,” said Cheryl Hay, Ohio Department of Higher Education deputy chancellor for higher education and workforce alignment. “It’s hard for them to attract students.”
Much of that boils down to the perception of manufacturing, she said.
Amy Waldbillig, vice president of workforce development for Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, said her school has seen an enrollment deficit in its placement opportunities and blames a lack of interest among students.
“People envision manufacturing as a dirty job where you come home with dirt under your fingernails. But that has changed,” she said. “That new image just hasn’t really connected with our workforce.”
One of the goals of the statewide effort by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and LIFT is to allow the manufacturing industry to take ownership of its image, Hay said.
One in five parents thinks that manufacturing jobs pay minimum wage, lack benefits and are short on innovative, intellectually stimulating work. – Online survey of 1,035 American parents of children ages 6 to 17 by the Alcoa Foundation and SkillsUSA
“There are already tons of manufacturers that are working with schools,” she said. “They’ve already started the image work. The challenge with manufacturing is pulling all of that together and honoring what’s going on locally but scaling it to a larger strategic plan and involving multiple partners in the region, not just with education but with nonprofit organizations, as well.”
Partners for a Competitive Workforce is a regional collaborative effort that focuses on meeting employer demand by growing the skills of the current and future workforce. Within the manufacturing industry, PCW works with educational partners including Cincinnati State and Gateway Community & Technical College, and business partners including Richards Industries and Mazak Corp.
Stephen Tucker, director of industry partnerships for PCW, believes the statewide approach will help advance the messaging around manufacturing.
“If we have a statewide initiative that can help us develop a statewide message, we can create greater momentum that way,” he said.
Emily DeRocco, education and workforce director for LIFT, estimates that Ohio companies are expected to add another 25,600 workers to their payrolls in advanced manufacturing in the next decade.
To fill that need, she said, Ohio not only has to address its manufacturing image issue, it also has to address the fact that more than half of its manufacturing workforce is expected to retire over the course of the next decade and that most manufacturers cite the skill level of their incoming talent as their top workforce concern.
“We have to be better, smarter and more accelerated in preparing this generation of the manufacturing workforce,” she said. “(Because of this statewide effort), colleges can look forward to a significant amount of help from industry, as well as assurance that their educational pathways are teaching to the right skills and their graduates are indeed the graduates that are recruited and hired by manufacturing companies.”