Need: Workers. Goal: Raise $1M-plus for manufacturing training

The Dayton Region Manufacturers Association will soon be on a quest to address a problem that has long bedeviled association members: Finding the next generation of manufacturing workers and entrepreneurs.

That effort won’t be cheap.

“We want to raise over $1 million,” said Jim Bowman, 2017 chairman of the DRMA board.

Every year DRMA surveys members on what keeps them up at night, and every year the results are similar.

Nearly always topping the list of concerns — often ahead of taxes, health care costs and regulations — are finding the right workers.

“Those are the things that typically don’t change from year to year,” said Angelia Erbaugh, president of DRMA. “Growing the pipeline and the workforce.”

Technically skilled and productive workers are in very short supply in the Dayton region, said a DRMA summary of its newest survey, whose results were released late last month. “Over 87 percent of members responding to the survey identified this is a top issue, and this has been the No. 1 issue for the last four years.”

The problem isn’t manufacturing’s alone. The Society for Human Resource Management, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, said in 2015 that by 2016 a third of the U.S. labor force was expected to be older than 50, compared with 27 percent in 2007.

“Now that the large Baby Boom generation has reached retirement age, organizations are faced with the prospect of losing many workers with key talents, experience and skills,” said an executive summary tied to the report.

DRMA leaders want to attack the problem in a new way. They want to energize the DRMA Foundation, an arm of the association. It’s a charitable 501 c3 geared specifically to career awareness and “growing the workforce pipeline,” Bowman said.

This effort could involve fundraisers, golf outings and events like that. But DRMA knows much more will be needed.

So with the help of the Dayton Foundation, the DRMA will seek the help of a consultant to guide what Erbaugh calls a “full-blown” campaign.

“We’re not professional fundraisers,” Bowman said. “We’re manufacturers. We can do a lot of asking. But it’s really how to package that, how to understand it, how to get to the right folks.”

One goal is to continue an endeavor the DRMA started last summer, a four-week training shot meant to give prospective workers the fundamentals in manufacturing.

It’s nationally validated, industry-standard course designed by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, offering a “CPT” (certified production technician) credential, Erbaugh said.

DRMA tried the program in a pilot effort last year. Three of four participants found jobs, Erbaugh said.

Quick programs like this are needed, she says. Longer-term training programs like Sinclair Community College’s Step II course typically have four job employer requests for every graduate, she said.

Erbaugh, with Bowman — who is vice president operations and chief operating officer of Rack Processing Co. Inc. in Moraine — believe the foundation is right tool to make the course more widely available and to help address the issue in general.

“Not that it was dormant — it was always there,” Bowman said of the foundation. “But everyone sees the association as one entity.”

In fact, Erbaugh said, “the money in the foundation can be used only for our workforce development initiatives. That’s the way we incorporated it about 15 years ago.”

Overall, this effort will be multi-faceted and will take more than fundraising.

“We can go to the schools, the under-employed, the unemployed, to help them realize that there are actually careers that we are creating,” Bowman said.

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