Dayton manufacturers: Finding the right workers remains a challenge

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

But DRMA president sees hope on the horizon

Finding the right workers hasn’t gotten any easier, according to the newest ranking of the top issues affecting Dayton-area manufacturers.

But some local industry observers believe a slow cultural shift may be at work, with educators and parents starting to see manufacturing as a viable career option.

For the 11th straight year, finding qualified workers is once again the biggest challenge for area manufacturers, according to the latest “top issues” list from the Dayton Region Manufacturers Association (DRMA).

ExploreWorkforce issues endure as top Dayton manufacturing concern

As in the last ten annual surveys, the shortage of skilled workers remains the top issue. Moving up to the second most urgent issue in this era of inflation is the increased cost of doing business, along with growing “price resistance” from customers and more.

In an interview Monday, Angelia Erbaugh, DRMA president, acknowledged that workforce has had long staying power atop the list of things that most worry manufacturers. But she believes manufacturers and the community at large are nevertheless making progress in this area.



More than ever, educators are on board with the idea that the trades and manufacturing can be viable careers for their students, Erbaugh said.

“They totally agree that the four-year college path is not the only path to a successful career,” she said. “And that’s a major shift.”

While she wasn’t ready to offer numbers or details, Erbaugh said she sees enrollment rising in area technical center courses and “career-awareness initiatives” that direct students in those directions.

Courses in robotics, engineering tech, precision machining, welding and similar stills are either at capacity or trending up, she said.

She added: “Whenever I’m in a meeting with educators, they nod their head when somebody says that the four-year path is not the only path to success.”

Chuck Dryer, territory manager at Industrial Tube and Steel and DRMA board member, agreed with Erbaugh that schools are getting the message.

“These trade schools are not a last resort but a viable option,” he said. “You’re seeing the educators get it.”

Dryer works in outside sales, and the need for good workers is anything but new among his many customers, he added.

“It’s definitely not just in our industry,” said Dryer, who is based in Butler County’s West Chester Twp. “In a post-COVID world, everyone is having that issue.”

According to DRMA, 81 manufacturing companies across the region responded to the annual survey. They answered questions about what challenges them most, from government policy issues to specific problems they see in the coming year.

Supply chain snags, business sustainability and the burden of government regulations also are top concerns, the survey found. Dayton-area manufacturers are also eyeing an increasingly complex tax code, competition from overseas firms, cyber-security threats and legalization of marijuana.

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