Growing jobs key to Ohio’s $90B manufacturing sector

Ohio’s manufacturers are turning to the insurance industry as a model to help build the workforce for a sector that contributes nearly $90 billion annually to the state’s economy.

This month, the Ohio Department of Higher Education and Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow launched the Ohio Manufacturing Careers Council, an Ohio industry-led initiative to further develop manufacturing skills in youth and adults.

The council, which has secured more than $697,000 in funding commitments, will increase partnerships among Ohio manufacturing firms and the state’s workforce and education systems to ensure a continued pipeline of well-trained workers, officials said.

LIFT, one of the founding institutes in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, said Ohio companies plan to add another 25,600 workers to their payrolls in advanced manufacturing over the next decade, increasing employment 3.4 percent in these fields.

“Advanced manufacturing jobs are strong and concentrated in Ohio relative to its population,” said Jessica Borza, a LIFT spokeswoman. Ohio has 5 percent of the lightweight materials advanced manufacturing workforce, compared to its 3.6 percent share of the total U.S. population. That ratio is higher than those for the other LIFT partner states of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Dayton-based Select Industries Corp., Makino of Mason and Champion GSE of Springfield were among the more than 75 Ohio manufacturing industry representatives who attended the council’s first meeting Sept. 14 in Columbus. Other area companies that registered to attend included Emerson Climate Technologies, Crown Equipment Corp., Gem City Engineering & Manufacturing, and Yaskawa Motoman Robotics.

“Select Industries, like all other manufacturing companies, struggles every day to find qualified candidates to fill our open manufacturing jobs. I feel strongly that a statewide message promoting manufacturing and its wide range of career paths and opportunities is crucial for us to recruit the next generation of manufacturers,” said Jonathan Foley, a Select Industries business unit leader.

Foley chairs the Dayton Region Manufacturers Association’s workforce pipeline committee. The association represents business members from a 14-county area including Butler, Clark, Montgomery and Warren counties.

DRMA President Angelia Erbaugh said a statewide focus on manufacturing careers is essential for the continued growth of the industry. The council’s formation is a “step in the right direction,” she said.

The manufacturing council’s sector-based strategy is based on a similar partnership between business and higher education institutions that created the Insurance Industry Resource Council. Launched in 2012, the IIRC has seen positive results in addressing that industry’s workforce issues, said Cheryl Hay, deputy chancellor for higher education and workforce alignment for the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

The IIRC was charged with developing talent for Ohio’s insurance industry after a 2011 workforce study showed a need for 26,000 Ohioans to fill insurance jobs by 2020, requiring a 7.1 percent growth rate for the sector.

Hay said the IIRC identified a need for more insurance education programs in Ohio, as well as an “image issue” that included a lack of an awareness among young people about available careers in the industry.

“Our schools can do a lot of things, but they can’t create a desire on the part of students to want to be in an industry — the industry has to do that,” Hay said.

Ohio insurance companies put a portion of their recruitment budgets toward a central budget to help drive the IIRC strategy, which has resulted in new and expanded insurance education programs at the University of Cincinnati and Kent State University, among other institutions.

Manufacturers are now following suit. The Manufacturing Careers Council was launched with a $178,000 investment from LIFT. The initiative has secured commitments for an additional cost share of $519,400 from other partners for a total project cost of $697,400 Borza said.

Manufacturers who attended the Sept. 14 event were asked to commit to workgroups related to three focus areas: image, education and skills, and product commercialization.

The council also is in the process of mapping existing manufacturing image and education efforts to see what can be brought to scale across the state.

For example, the DRMA has been working with the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network in Cleveland and the Partners for a Competitive Workforce in Cincinnati to develop common messaging about the industry’s career opportunities across the state, Erbaugh said.

“There are a lot of manufacturers who have been very proactive in reaching out to local schools, banding together to try to come up with strategies at the local or regional level related to image. There are a lot of great things going on. Our job at the state level will be how do we loop all those together, honor what is going on in those areas and then create an overall state strategy,” Hay said.

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