Backers of the new ConxusNEO workforce development program in Summit County have not wasted any time starting their outreach efforts with area students.
The initiative, which replaces the former Summit Workforce Solutions program, is aimed at aligning local school curriculums with the needs of area manufacturers and other employers – and at convincing more students to pursue careers in industry.
As of March 24, ConxusNEO representatives had met with one school and students from another had a field trip that day to see machining operations at Akron Tool & Die Co. on East Miller Avenue.
“They were a good bunch,” said Mike Magee, owner of the company. He and sales representative Tim Byrne gave about 15 students from Akron’s Hyre Middle School a tour and answered their questions about manufacturing.
Like most manufacturers who rely on highly skilled labor, Akron Tool & Die is constantly on the lookout for employees, and especially for trained machinists, Magee said. The company has a payroll of 25 people, and every single person counts a lot, he added.
And, also like most other manufacturers in Northeast Ohio, Magee must grapple with the challenge of an aging workforce.
“I’ve got probably four or five guys who will be ready to retire in the next five years or so … in a shop like this, that’s a lot,” Magee said.
That is a big reason why Magee is working with ConxusNEO. It’s also why he gets involved with things like student robotic projects and brings students in to see firsthand how a machine shop operates.
Only a couple of the students in attendance had ever been inside a manufacturing operation before, they told Magee.
It’s too soon to say whether he has convinced any future machinists of their career path, but most of the kids said they liked what they saw – and they liked the idea of making tangible products.
The challenge, Magee said, is usually the math required for the job. A few eyes rolled, as they always do, when he told the students about the trigonometry and other math involved in high-tech machining, he said.
That’s one reason he and others are hoping more schools will not just teach math, but teach it in conjunction with hands-on vocational training. When he went to middle school in Tallmadge, back in the 1970s, the school had a metal-working shop. Today, very few area schools still have such a facility or offer any such training, Magee said.
ConxusNEO president Sue Lacy said she’s already on the case. She and representatives from Ken-Tool and Sadler Machine met with 57 educators from Akron’s Garfield High School just days before the event at Magee’s shop.
“We had a great reception, and, in fact, have had follow-up requests for classroom sessions,” Lacy said.
In mid-April, ConxusNEO will also conduct tours of local manufacturing facilities for high school guidance counselors, Lacy said.
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Shingler, Dan. (2016, March 25). Conexus already taking its workforce message to students. Crain’s Cleveland Business. Retrieved from http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20160325/NEWS/160329835/conexus-already-taking-its-workforce-message-to-students.