Developing skilled workers a goal of new manufacturing group

By JOSH EWERS Published: October 30, 2015

One of the main issues facing the robust northwest Ohio manufacturing sector is a current lack of skilled workers, officials explained Friday while announcing the formation of the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium to attendees of a presentation at Northwest State Community College.

The consortium, which will consist of NSCC, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and other interested manufacturing-oriented businesses and individuals, will focus on supporting the local manufacturing economy through collaborative training, recruiting efforts and a number of advisory services.

“If you’re going to sit around and wait for workers to come to you, it isn’t going to happen,” Kevin Febrey, president and owner of Napoleon Machine LLC said. “People’s fear is that businesses are going to get their needs met somewhere else.”

Among those in attendance was Ohio Rep. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon), who told the group that $1 of every $20 of the United States’ gross domestic product comes from Ohio manufacturing and that 30 percent of Williams County jobs are in manufacturing.

“Just to give you a feeling of how important manufacturing is to the state — but also how important it is to the country — Ohio manufacturing ranks ninth in exports across the country for the past few years,” McColley said in his overview presentation. “From 2009, the exports from Ohio have increased greatly in a short amount of time, we’ve gone up 50 percent.

“The average salary for manufacturing was around $55,000 in 2014 and from what we’re hearing, as the skills required and demand for workers increases, those numbers are going to go up too.”

For those reasons and others, NSCC, manufacturing leaders, supply chain firms, and educators have been invited to pool their resources and knowledge via the consortium to preserve and support the growth of that economy.

“We’re going to have to work together to control our own destiny. We’re going to explain what our needs are and work with people,” Febrey said.

Febrey explained a program his company, in a partnership with Automatic Feed Company, implemented to start training high school students in manufacturing early on and show them the opportunities available to them that they might not be aware of otherwise.

“We may be able to have an avenue where folks can come out of high school, go to the plant floor, learn a skill, obtain their education and move forward in a career path and really try to find what it is they want to do in manufacturing,” Febrey said. “The lab is Automatic Feed’s engineering facility. The engineers get to interact with them, get on the floor and see what welding is, so at least they’re getting exposed and understanding what’s out there.”

This kind of program is exactly the kind of thing, among other more direct business goals, that the Ohio MEP and NSCC are looking to accomplish with the new group.

“Our relationship with NSCC is so valuable because of the workforce training component. If we don’t have that type of program, where are we going to be when it comes to manufacturing?” MEP representative Rebbecca Singer said.

Through AMC, manufacturers will have access to the MEP’s statewide network, which will put them in touch with technical resources, further workforce training, supply chain improvement information, opportunities to link with other companies and marketing strategies.

“The more we can communicate what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, the more those linkages and supplier relationships can be facilitated,” Singer said. “We’re working on understanding each other’s capabilities so we can better direct companies. It’s a very practical way to find solutions.”

The organization will offer education training events, seminars and issue specific task forces in the future. It is open to any individual or entity who plays a role in the manufacturing industry.

“Our purpose is to make northwest Ohio the location of choice for job creation,” said Jim Drewes, Director of Workforce Development at NSCC.