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Area manufacturers need workers: Here’s what they are doing to recruit

Manufacturing Day this year is Oct. 4, and it comes at a time when manufacturers need workers more than ever.

General Motors is positioning itself to build a $175 million plant in Brookville, and if all goes according to plan, that facility will need more than 100 new workers in the next 15 or so months.

Dayton city officials have indicated they believe the plant has potential far beyond that — 600 to 700 workers ultimately.

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The region is welcoming the news. But some are raising the question: Where will those workers be found?

“The immediate impact will be more pressures on the workforce,” said Angelia Erbaugh, president of the Dayton Region Manufacturers Association. “Great — where are those 100 people going to come from?”

Manufacturing Day allows manufacturers to open their doors at least one day a year to students and teachers and show them that manufacturing can be a great career.

“It’s not the same as your grandpa’s manufacturing or your dad’s manufacturing,” said Phil Ratermann, director of the Fastlane program at the University of Dayton, a problem-solver and consultant for manufacturers. “Those days of the three Ds — dirty, dark and dangerous — are gone.”

“There are some manufacturing operations that are really impressive,” he added.

“Hopefully, moms will start to think, hey, maybe there is such a career path in manufacturing again,” Erbaugh said.

Dayton-area manufacturers today are building (or helping to build) tissue grafts, snack foods, medicine and medical devices, jet engines, auto windshields and much more.

“We’re a manufacturing town because of our mentality,” Erbaugh said. “We know how to manufacture.”

Created by the Chicago-area Fabricators and Manufacturers Association in 2012, the event has grown from fewer than 200 participating companies nationwide to nearly 3,000 last year.

The numbers keep rising. Last year in the Dayton area, 51 DRMA-member companies opened their doors to school field trips, with 64 companies total hosting open houses. About 4,300 students from 60 schools and five home-school groups took part locally.

This year, DRMA’s goal is to have 55 DRMA-member open houses, and it appears the association will reach that.

“We never know (the number of) students until after the fact, but we have no reason to think it will be less than last year,” Erbaugh said.

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Indeed, participation numbers have never fallen, at least in Dayton.

UD’s Fastlane partners with Erbaugh and the DRMA team in planning the day all year for the day. Ratermann said it’s not unusual to schedule participating companies in March, seven months before Manufacturing Day.

“It’s a whole-year thing for us,” he said.

He believes the “real sweet spot” to reach students are the junior high and early high school years, when planning for a possible career begins to slowly coalesce for some.

Reach them at the right time, and perhaps the students will consider a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) study path or a field that doesn’t require a college degree, organizers hope.

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“Get kids out of classrooms and into a school bus, and get that bus into a parking lot,” Ratermann said. “Have those kids go into a manufacturing facility and see real-world manufacturing processes.”

“It’s the same message,” Erbaugh said. “It’s all about getting primarily students and educators and parents in to see what contemporary manufacturing is all about.”

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