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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

Manufacturing Companies Look for Workers

A brainstorming graphic from Jill Oldham and Shelly Hinton of the Akron Canton Foodbank

Despite all the talk about jobs being outsourced to Mexico or China, a recent survey of manufacturing companies in Ohio found they are worried that they won’t be able to find enough workers.  Companies and schools are beginning to collaborate to find a solution. 

One Cleveland manufacturer, SSP, is looking to hire.  SSP Human Resources manager Jenny Stupica says fellow manufacturers need to “switch from being consumers of education to investors in education.”  she suggest partnering with schools to not only develop curriculum but to create hands-on opportunities that make education relevant to students.

“We realized we weren’t dealing with a skills shortage; it was more of an experience shortage.”

While Ohio did lose manufacturing jobs during the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ohio State University economist Ned Hill says the biggest reason for job losses in the manufacturing field is automation. He says 88% of the losses can be attributed to automation while just 13% came about due to foreign trade.

The biggest barrier to adding jobs, he says,  is finding employees who are trained to work with it.   He wants Ohio companies to bring back worker training programs.   He also says companies should not be afraid to hire teenagers for part time jobs in their plants, as earlier generations learned what it meant to work. 

“We understood and got experience in different types of employment situations by pushing a broom in a factory, by loading a truck in the summer.  So by putting those barriers to having kids work in plants, factories, warehouses - yeah you might be saving a little bit of money but you’re also cutting off the future workforce. “

Hill said he met with a group of Lakewood High School students and was surprised they all wanted to be chefs.  Why? Because the only work they could get was as dishwashers or fast food workers and it was the only business they knew. 


OSU Professor of Public Affairs and Regional Planning Edward W. "Ned" Hill.

Community colleges in the state are stepping up training.  Para Jones, president of Stark State College, said that has been the school’s tradition and she added, businesses are coming to them again for help. 

“And they are saying ‘we want to hire people; we want you to train them; we want them to come into our company at the very entry level, ready to learn and continue growing.  And you will continue, Stark State, to educate these people as they move up through the career ladder at our companies.’”    

Akron Public Schools plans to open a manufacturing academy at its newest high school, the replacement of Garfield and Kenmore high schools. 

Manufacturing company officials and educators consider ways to solve workforce shortage

Meanwhile, the California company Haas Automation, is paying to train some Ohio teachers in the latest technology.  Its director of education, Toni Neary, told the ConxusNEO manufacturing conference Thursday, how glad she is that Ohio is now giving academic credit to students who earn industry credentials in welding (AWS) and metal working (NIMS).

“This is a difference in losing a student from a machining program for a math and science credit for eligibility for graduation.  It is huge,” said Neary.   

Ohio is also allowing students to take the industry test called WorkKeys, which focuses on solving real world problems.  The workforce organization Talent NEO is offering those tests for free in Cuyahoga and Summit County.