Building a new workforce remains object of Manufacturing Day

Videographer Joel Nordstrom flying his drone around Detailed Machining in Sidney to get aerial shots of the shop floor. The Dayton Region Manufacturers Association commissioned videos of several member plants to offer students "virtual" tours on Manufacturing Day, which is Oct. 2. Contributed

Manufacturers had 408,000 job openings nationally in July — the most since February, before widespread COVID-19 restrictions came into effect.

Those type of job openings is one of the reasons behind today’s Manufacturing Day, where area manufacturers will “open” their doors to introduce their businesses to what they hope will be the next generation of engineers, production workers, quality managers, accountants and technicians.

COVID-19 has forced today’s student tours of manufacturers to be mostly online. But the need to build the workforce of the future hasn’t changed.

“No. 1 is just to give them (students) an understanding of the opportunities that are out there,” said Jim Bowman, owner and chief executive of Noble Tool in Dayton. “We don’t want them to have that perception that if you’re working in manufacturing, you’re going to be turning a wrench or working on an assembly line.”

Normally, in Dayton and other communities, the day involves dozens of school buses fanning out across the area to visit plants, labs and offices. Last year, more than 2,640 Manufacturing Day events were scheduled nationwide, with companies wanting to fill 4.6 million jobs expected to be open nationally in the next decade.

WATCH: Students tour new auto parts plant for Manufacturing Day

This year changes that up. In Ohio, only about 20 events are scheduled on the Manufacturing Institute’s Manufacturing Day web site, and 18 of those are virtual.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything just as planning for this year’s event got started last spring, said Angelia Erbaugh, president of the Dayton Region Manufacturers Association (DRMA)

“Everybody was in the same boat as we were," Erbaugh said. "We were trying to figure it out.”

DRMA and its partners decided to go with a virtual approach. Erbaugh said a handful of members “who get the whole career awareness thing” were invited to host video tours of their plants, with Nordstrom Films’ Joel Nordstrom behind the camera — or in some cases, controlling a drone for aerial shots.

“I’m always impressed (by) what they are able to do on a daily basis,” Nordstrom said of the companies he visited. “It’s always pretty amazing.”

In all, at least seven Dayton-area manufacturers were filmed, with five videos planned for DRMA’s web site and the Ohio Manufacturing Association’s, and two more scheduled after that — in all, what Erbaugh called a “tool kit” with seven video tours.

In the Dayton area, about 44 schools have responded to DRMA’s invitation to make the videos part of the curriculum Friday.

All are welcome, but Bowman said there’s a special desire to reach young minds in junior high.

“They’re smart enough to understand the world around them a little more, yet they still need some guidance,” he said.

The videos will focus on Noble Tool, Select Industries, MacGregor Metalworking in Springfield, NOV (National Oilwell Varco, the former Chemineer), along with Henny Penny. Libra Industries (the former Gem City Engineering) and Staco Manufacturing will also have a video presence.

Northmont sixth grade students watch auto parts being made during a Manufacturing Day visit to the automotive parts manufacturer Hematite that recently opened in Englewood. Hematite makes under body shields, under engine covers and plastic wheel liners for auto manufacturers. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

“The content of those are really about the occupations,” Erbaugh said. “Educators have told us that what students really need to hear about are what are the jobs available.”

“We have every type of job to support our business," said Rob Connelly, chairman and CEO of Henny Penny, a Eaton-based international producer of food preparation equipment for the restaurant industry. His company has about 785 employees in Eaton, with about 250 working virtually.

Manufacturers need engineers, accountants, IT people, human resources experts and more. In Connelly’s case, he needs chefs and food service specialists.

One goal is to dispel what Connelly says are the “misconceptions” about manufacturing — that it’s “dirty, sweaty" work in depressing factories.

“No, this is not that,” Connelly said.

“There are so many other avenues you can pursue," said Noble Tool’s Bowman. “Programming CNC equipment with computers and 3-D printing for additive manufacturing, as well as using your problem-solving and puzzle skills in how to fix a product.”

Facts about manufacturing

---More than one in 10 Ohioans work in a manufacturing job.

--The average annual earnings for Ohio workers in manufacturing: $58,800.

---Manufacturing is the largest of 20 economic sectors in the state, contributing 17 percent of Ohio’s overall gross domestic product (GDP).

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