Not enough skilled workers.
It’s a common lament among manufacturers in the nation and Ohio, where, despite massive declines in manufacturing, the sector accounts for one in every eight jobs.
“We’re all struggling with the same issues. Not having enough of a skilled workforce,” said Dave Sattler, owner of Sattler Machine Products in Sharon Center.
Sattler is working to get the word out — especially to fellow manufacturers — about a ConxusNEO-organized event Thursday called “Align.”
The program — which will run from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — is designed to get area manufacturers, educators and economic development officials talking about ways to align education and training programs to the needs of the workforce.
Jobs have become more sophisticated, and many people — students, job seekers, educators and others — don’t know that manufacturing is not about their grandfather’s dirty factory floor, manufacturers note.
Sattler and Jenny Stupica, human resources manager for Twinsburg-based instrumentation valve and fittings manufacturer SSP, are championing a year-old Akron area effort — called ConxusNEO, a nonprofit aimed at closing the skills gap and strengthening the connection between job seekers and employers.
Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James will be among those talking Thursday about efforts such as Akron Public Schools’ College and Career Academies. The program is at North High School and eventually will expand districtwide.
ConxusNEO, the reorganized Summit Workforce Solutions, is helping to develop the College and Career Academies program, working with more than 100 community, business and education leaders to link academic subjects to workforce themes.
Para Jones, president of Stark State College and a member of the ConxusNEO board, will talk Thursday about Stark State College’s plan for an industrial maintenance program in Akron.
Stupica, on the board of ConxusNEO, said manufacturers attending Thursday will learn how they can become involved in one of five “sectors,” or groups — each covering a particular geographic area of Summit County. Each group involves educators, companies and economic development officials in the given area.
“The nice part is now collectively we’re all working together,” said Sattler, “knowing full well [the challenge of finding skilled workers] is not about one given company.”
Sattler, whose 22-employee company serves various markets, said “We all become stronger from [working together] and we’re not taking employees from one another any longer. The pool [of job candidates] gets bigger.”
One ongoing effort that manufacturers will learn about is TalentNEO, a 2-year-pilot program, involving an assessment test for math, reading and information-seeking skills. ConxusNEO oversees the pilot in Summit County.
Stupica said the end result of this ACT WorkKeys assessment test may be a job pairing that neither a company nor a job seeker expected.
“Those looking for a job might say, ‘I’ve never been in a manufacturing facility before,’ ” Stupica said. “And now after taking the WorkKeys test, they can see they have the skill set that shows they can get a position that’s just a starting point in a manufacturing career.”
Getting word out
In addition, Sattler said, ConxusNEO and Thursday’s event is about getting the word out about existing workforce development programs: “We want to identify the best practices and share them with one another.”
Sattler said there are a lot of workforce development efforts, but “they’re in different pockets… This is the first time we’ve been able to get anything [to work together] that has momentum.”
One such existing program — in which ConxusNEO is involved — is the Right Skills Now program.
This month, SSP, the 180-employee manufacturer in Twinsburg, hired three people who interned with the company for eight weeks as part of the Right Skills Now program at area community colleges.
Rick Stockburger, manufacturing engagement manager at ConxusNEO, said attendees at the Thursday event also will hear a talk by Ned Hill, who will focus on the future of manufacturing and how U.S. manufacturing will be affected by President Donald Trump’s administration. Hill is with Ohio State University and the nonpartisan Brookings Institution think tank.
Educators will be able to learn about trends in careers in manufacturing and grant opportunities available through the Gene Haas Foundation, the California group that awards grants in support of manufacturing education.
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Byard, Katie. (2017, March 18). Akron area manufacturers invited to join educators and others to talk about ways to increase pool of skilled workers; strengthen connections with one another. Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved from http://www.ohio.com/business/akron-area-manufacturers-invited-to-join-educators-to-talk-about-ways-to-increase-pool-of-skilled-workers-1.754165.