COLUMBUS, Ohio — These recent headlines tell the tale. Despite competitive wages and benefits offered by manufacturers, a persistent shortage of qualified, skilled workers is holding back Ohio’s economic growth. Low unemployment is only compounding the problem.
Because manufacturing represents nearly one-fifth of the Buckeye State’s GDP – contributing $108 billion a year, more than any other sector – the workforce deficit affects all of us.
In Cuyahoga County alone, between 1,500 and 2,000 manufacturing jobs go unfilled every year, even as most manufacturers say they would expand faster if they could hire more workers.
Ohio’s workforce challenge is part of a troubling national trend. Earlier this summer, U.S. job openings in the manufacturing sector reached an all-time high of 509,000, according to federal data. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that 2.4 million American manufacturing jobs could go unfilled over the next decade.
Part of the problem is an inefficient approach to recruiting new talent. Manufacturers have relied heavily on local community colleges or high schools to upskill enough students to fill their labor needs. This approach has pitted companies against one another in the battle for new workers.
At the same time, too few students have been exposed to manufacturing and its rewarding careers. This means many young people and their parents are unaware that modern manufacturing jobs are high-tech, safe, well-paying, and intellectually engaging.
It’s time to modernize how Ohio develops its manufacturing workforce. That’s why The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) and Northeast Ohio’s The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) have created a comprehensive workforce plan.
Key pillars of this plan include:
· Regional Sector Partnerships: A statewide system of industry-led sector partnerships – guided by local leaders – is being established to foster more collaboration and resource-sharing among manufacturers, as well as their education and workforce partners. This network is critical to solving Ohio manufacturers’ common workforce problems.
MAGNET and the Greater Cleveland Partnership are part of the OMA’s statewide network of regional sector partnerships with the recently launched Workforce Connect Manufacturing, which is Cuyahoga County’s partnership. Others in this network, for example, include ConxusNEO (Summit County area); Alliance for Working Together (Lake and Geauga counties); Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Association; and the Lorain County Manufacturing Sector Partnership.
Adding to this momentum is the state’s new budget, which includes $5 million for industry sector partnerships, thanks in large part to Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. The local and state support for sector partnerships has made Ohio a national model in workforce development.
· Earning While Learning: Expanding the use of innovative manufacturing apprenticeships is essential to Ohio’s manufacturing economy. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded the Ohio Manufacturing Workforce Partnership – a collaboration of the OMA and Ohio TechNet (led by Lorain County Community College) – a $12 million grant to foster more earn-and-learn opportunities by using a market-driven approach. The federal funding will be used to train 5,000 Ohioans in the manufacturing sector over the next four years.
This funding will play a critical role in the Cleveland area as Workforce Connect Manufacturing aims to bring 3,000 new people into manufacturing over the next three years. This school year, MAGNET’s “Early College, Early Career” program has attracted nearly 100 students from eight high schools across three counties to participate in a first-of-its-kind, European-inspired youth apprenticeship program.
· Introducing K-12 Students to Manufacturing: More must be done to ensure younger students are aware of the varied career options that manufacturing offers. This includes eliminating the school funding disincentive that penalizes schools when students take advantage of career and technical centers. It also means school counselors and educators need a solid understanding of modern manufacturing and its opportunities.
To this end, the DeWine-Husted state budget – as approved by the General Assembly – includes the Manufacturing Mentorship Program. This provision enables 16- and 17-year-old students to work part-time in a manufacturing facility under the guidance of a mentor, giving students workplace experience while still in high school.
· Industry-Recognized Credentials: Ohio must grow its use of industry-recognized credentials, which verify an individual’s qualifications – thereby ensuring a deeper talent pool for manufacturers while enhancing a worker’s value. Fortunately, Ohio’s new budget appropriates $30 million to support micro-credentials or short-term training to current and prospective workers. This is important for younger employees, as well as older job-seekers and career-switchers.
The workforce challenge before Ohio is real and significant. But the good news is there are many exciting, emerging initiatives that have the potential to connect young people – as well as populations that have traditionally been underrepresented in manufacturing – to family-sustaining manufacturing careers.
The takeaway is this: When it comes to developing manufacturing talent, Ohio is onto something big.
Those interested can learn more at the OMA’s upcoming Ohio Manufacturers’ Workforce Summit in Columbus on Oct. 29. The event is open to the public so that all Ohioans can gain insight that will help them enhance their local labor force.
Eric Burkland is president of The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association in Columbus. Ethan Karp is president and CEO of The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), with offices in Cleveland and Akron.
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Guest Columnist. (2019, Sept 11). We have a plan to address Ohio’s manufacturing workforce shortages: Eric Burkland and Ethan Karp. Cleveland.com. Retrieved from https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2019/09/we-have-a-plan-to-address-ohios-manufacturing-workforce-shortages-eric-burkland-and-ethan-karp.html