As manufacturing continues to grow in this region following the loss of thousands of jobs in the industry during the Great Recession, companies can’t find enough workers with the right skills, industry advocates say.
Across the nation and in the region, manufacturers will take time today to talk about that very problem — while they try to do something about it. Usually scheduled for the first Friday in October, Manufacturing Day nationwide is when manufacturers open their doors to school field trips and sometimes the public in general, offering a glimpse of industry and where it’s headed.
The problem is especially acute nationally because in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, many areas in Texas and Florida are having difficulty finding workers as many have left for the construction industry to help rebuild communities.
The Dayton Region Manufacturing Association serves 14 West Central Ohio counties and is home to about 2,500 manufacturers trying to fill some 3,400 new positions each year, according to Jon Foley, a trustee with the association..
Angelia Erbaugh, DRMA executive director, said it’s hard to get a precise number of available regional job openings. But she was comfortable saying that “every single” manufacturer tells her that they can’t find enough people with the right skill sets.
“I hear nothing but optimism, but they’re busy — so busy in fact that they’re struggling to find workers to do all the work,” Erbaugh said.
DRMA has been an enthusiastic participant in Manufacturing Day since the event began six years ago.
“We jumped on board the first time it was conducted,” Erbaugh said.
And stayed on board. In Dayton in that first year, there were only about 10 companies opening their doors to students or the public. Last year, the association had 54 open houses across the DRMA’s service area, with 40 of those firms being DRMA-member companies.
This year: The Dayton region will have 67 open houses, at least 43 of whom are DRMA members, said Erbaugh and the National Association of Manufacturers. Staub Manufacturing and Select Industries will be two of the companies taking part. (For more information on companies participating, go to http://www.mfgday.com/)
The event was launched by a fabricators association before being handed off to NAM. Erbaugh recalled introducing herself recently to a NAM representative in Washington, D.C., and she mentioned that she felt that Dayton had a strong Manufacturing Day track record.
"He stopped me and said, 'Wait, whoa, Dayton you are the best — in the whole country,'" Erbaugh said.
Erbaugh sees the day as a “career awareness event” — an opportunity to educate educators and students about what manufacturing truly is today.
“They (students and teachers) get to see career paths that they don’t have any knowledge about,” she said. “They get to see, oh, that’s why math is so important. That’s how computers are used in manufacturers.”
“The goal is to attract young people, and frankly, their parents,” said Jay Timmons, NAM president and CEO.
Manufacturers need more than people who are proficient in skilled trades, such as electricians, pipe-fitters and others. They need sales people, experts in human resources, IT — all of those fields, she said.
Timmons disagrees that jobs of the past won’t ever return. The United States has a manufacturing workforce 12 million-strong — including about 350,000 openings nationally today that aren’t being filled for a variety of reasons.
By 2025, U.S. manufacturers will have 3.5 million new jobs, through a blend of normal attribution and newly created openings, Timmons said.
“That number could grow exponentially,” he said.
Both Erbaugh and Timmons strike similar notes: For all its challenges, they believe manufacturing has a bright future.
Timmons said this year’s Manufacturing Day will have a “record number of events” this year, with more than 170 scheduled in Ohio.
“I’m absolutely optimistic, and it’s not just me,” Timmons said. “Our members have expressed their highest level of confidence in their own operations as well as the outlook for the economy.”
Manufacturers in Ohio account for 17.77 percent of the total economic output in the state, employing 12.5 percent of the workforce, according to NAM. Total output from manufacturing was $108 billion in 2015.
$8.8 billion annual payroll
$2.1 billion economic development
$48.2 billion annual sales
National wages, as of April 2017
$20.72, with an average of nearly 42 hours per week.
That’s above the average of $20.39 in April 2016 and $19.80 in April 2015.
Sources: Dayton Region Manufacturing Association, Bureau of Labor Statistics
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