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Addressing the Manufacturing Workforce Achilles’ Heel

Ohio has proven solutions to the manufacturing workforce gap

Glenn Richardson, managing director, JobsOhioThu Apr 12 2018
Ohio First Solar

Although national manufacturing job projections anticipate open positions for years to come, the manufacturing workforce gap isn’t something on the horizon – it’s already here and manufacturers are concerned about how and if they’ll find talent. The workforce gap is the “Achilles’ heel” of manufacturing.

For many years, escalated by the increasing integration of technology into manufacturing, there have been concerns about the workforce gap. Generations of workers who have been in the industry for decades are retiring, leaving positions open with potentially no one to fill them. Moreover, they are taking with them years of experience and knowledge.

With nearly 3.5 million jobs at stake over the next decade, this talent issue is about filling positions for the long term.

In Ohio, we have a strong base of existing manufacturing workers steeped in industry know-how. Every year, thousands of manufacturing workers are added to Ohio’s available talent pool – from engineers and technicians to welders and entry-level positions, such as a line-worker.

Recognizing the need, Ohio is committed to supporting manufacturing companies by finding the talent they need.  JobsOhio, our regional partners, and organizations across Ohio have already implemented manufacturing workforce initiatives. These initiatives include ways for companies to influence, access and obtain talent in Ohio, as well as understand where Ohio’s workforce is heading.

Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT)

Ohio’s Office of Workforce Transformation is developing a skilled workforce, promoting training programs, and connecting Ohio employers with qualified workers. These initiatives include, but are not limited to:

  • OhioMeansJobs (OMJ) – Ohio’s free, online career center connecting businesses to job seekers and potential employees to career consulting.
  • In-Demand Jobs List – A biennial survey combined with labor market information offers a list of in-demand careers in Ohio’s economy, especially within JobsOhio’s targeted industries, which serves as a base for workforce programs and priorities.
  • Workforce Supply Tool – Provides businesses with information on graduates from in-demand fields in Ohio, as well as projections for future graduates to help recruit a talent pipeline.
  • Workforce Success Measures – A statewide overview of Ohio’s workforce programs and their effectiveness in helping participants find employment, develop skills, increase their earnings and provide real-world value to businesses. Companies can use this to determine where to look and invest to find qualified workers.

Other hands-on workforce ventures offer ways to make an impact on workforce development including Business Advisory Councils, the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness SealApprenticeOhioWork-Based Learning and Regional Workforce Collaboration.

The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA)

OMA is dedicated to protecting and growing manufacturing in Ohio. To do so, they have launched workforce development initiatives.

  • “Making Ohio” Campaign – Is led by OMA and supported by Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT). Making Ohio is about challenging what people know about manufacturing and opening their eyes to what manufacturing has become: a high-tech industry that offers rewarding careers and made for people who use their heads and hands.
  • Industry Sector Partnerships – Putting employers in charge within a regional labor market to work together to align around shared solutions for education, training and community leadership. This gives manufacturers a collected voice, nurtures a pipeline of sought-after workers, increases efficiency in multiple areas and creates a strong, unified network.

Manufacturing companies that choose Ohio do so because we have the industry and academia collaboration, the highly skilled manufacturing workforce, the training and the resources to address these challenges and sooth their aching Achilles’ heel. Companies like Steiner eOptics and Airstream have found their talent solution in Ohio.

“There’s a dedication to craftsmanship and quality,” said Bob Wheeler, Airstream’s president and CEO. “People understand hard work, they understand loyalty, they understand what it is to be part of something bigger than themselves. You don’t find that just anywhere, and we find it in droves in western and central Ohio. Airstream has thrived here in Ohio.”

Deloitte published an excellent article back in early 2015 delving into the still relevant issue of the need for workers, providing excellent suggestions for managing and developing your manufacturing workforce.

What successful workforce building methods have you found that work? If you are interested in any of the resources I listed and are evaluating first steps to tackle your workforce challenge, please reach out to me and we can discuss how you can get started.

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