By Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen Staff Writer
A Fastlane survey of Champaign County manufacturing engineers and their employers reveal that more than 4,000 county residents are employed in manufacturing and that the average wage for county manufacturing employees is $64,000 a year.
This information was presented to around 30 representatives of area manufacturing companies and their allies in education and government who attended a breakfast hosted by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) at the County Community Center on Wednesday.
According to the slideshow presented by county Economic Director Marcia Bailey, the purpose of the Manufacturing Human Resources Council is to provide education and awareness to the community and public schools regarding manufacturing opportunities in Champaign County.
"Our HR council started about 6 years ago, and we said this is what our goal was going to be, and we've stayed at this goal, and we're starting to see how much change actually has happened in the perception of what manufacturing is about," Bailey said. "That's what this is all about, changing that perception."
In the 3 years since we've joined the partnership, the excitement from the manufacturing industry in particular has been just overwhelming, and there's so much potential," said Todd Michael, president of the Champaign Economic Partnership. "It used to be that the goal was to bring in more manufacturing or more businesses, but it's just as important to have employees and to have educated employees. So it's chicken and the egg and we're trying to bring both simultaneously for good, steady, structured growth.
Mostly Men in Local Manufacturing Jobs
Bailey noted that the male-to-female ratio of employees is unbalanced, but that some area manufacturers like Sarica Manufacturing like to have female employees because of the intricate nature of the work and because female hands are smaller.
"Ninety percent of our engineers are males so we keep telling the young females you have a great opportunity in Champaign County to become engineers in manufacturing," she said. "We need more females in manufacturing. It's also important that the students understand that this is the income you can make as an engineer in manufacturing in Champaign County, $37 to almost $41 an hour, which is not chump change. We're trying to get as much of this out as possible and really appreciate Fastlane for gathering this information."
Within the last several years there has been an increase in workers ages 19-24 at county manufacturing companies, and Bailey said she hopes this number increases. Part of the CEP's outreach to area youth has included a YMCA camp called "Inventor's Workshop," in which area manufacturers lead children ages 6-12 in projects such as building Lego block towers and transistor radios.
Other outreach efforts include a booth at the Champaign County Fair and the annual Manufacturing Day event, held last Friday, in which high school students toured local manufacturing companies.
"Everything that's around as of today was made by someone, and it's just amazing to learn that," Bailey said.
Near the end of the breakfast, the county commissioners presented proclamations to several of the company representatives, thanking them for their service to the community.
"I just want to say thank you to all the companies and manufacturers and businesses that are represented here and those who might not have been able to make it," said Commissioner Steve Hess. "You guys are a big part of the engine that drives this county, so thank you for all your contributions to the community and all that you do. Keep up the good work."
Manufacturers opening doors to high school students Friday
By Gary Schenkel
Eight local manufacturing companies are opening their doors Friday to allow about 150 Champaign County high school students to observe modern, high-tech manufacturing in action.
The Champaign County Manufacturing Human Resources Council and the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) planned the tours in conjunction with the national observance of Manufacturing Day, sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
“The county school superintendents have been helpful providing us direction on what students would like to learn from Manufacturing Day,” Jill O’Neal, member of the Champaign County Manufacturing Human Resources Council and CEP board member, said. “We heard that students would like to see not just the manufacturing environment, but a chance to ask questions about particular jobs, pay ranges and skills or knowledge required.” O’Neal is human resources manager at WEIDMANN Electrical Technology in Urbana.
Between touring manufacturing facilities in the morning and afternoon, students will gather at the Urbana University Student Center from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. There they will visit trade show-style displays set up by the manufacturers and talk with company representatives. They’ll also have lunch provided by the university.
Marcia Bailey, CEP director, said that parents interested in learning more about manufacturing careers for their children may attend the session at Urbana University. “Or they can contact the local manufacturers to schedule a visit with their students for a more personalized experience,” she added.
Each student will tour two facilities, including the Hall Company, KTH Parts Industries Inc., ORBIS Corporation, Rittal, Rosewood Machine and Tool Company, Sarica Manufacturing, Ultra-met and WEIDMANN Electrical Technology. Bundy Baking Solutions will join the others with a display at the university.
Urbana University, Ohio Means Jobs, Clark State Community College, the CEP, FASTLANE (West Central Ohio’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership) and Community Job Connect, Champaign County’s new online job posting and search board, will also set up displays at the university.
About 150 students will participate from Graham, Mechanicsburg, Triad, Urbana and West Liberty-Salem high schools. Triad offers Ohio Hi-Point Career Center’s Advanced Manufacturing program.
Todd Bodey, who teaches Advanced Manufacturing at Triad, said the Manufacturing Day activities provide students a good introduction to manufacturing careers and technology. He added that a Manufacturing Day tour is what got Zack Zizzo, a 2017 Triad graduate, interested in manufacturing. “Zack toured ORBIS and became really interested in their injection molding processes.”
Zizzo is now interning at ORBIS, which is supporting his education in the two-year mechanical engineering technology program at Clark State Community College.
“I see students coming back with an interest in something, and the students see the enthusiasm people have for their jobs in manufacturing,” Bodey said. “I’m very pleased the manufacturers can accommodate this many students.”
Manufacturers to be honored
The CEP will honor local manufacturers at the Manufacturers Celebration Breakfast, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, in the Champaign County Community Center auditorium, 1512 S. U.S. 68, Urbana.
“Manufacturing plays a significant role in strengthening our local economy and making Champaign County a better place to live and work,” Bailey said. Local manufacturers employ nearly 4,000.
“Through efforts like our Manufacturing Day tours and partnerships with local schools, we are preparing the next generation for manufacturing careers and ensuring the future success of local industry,” Bailey said.
Gary Schenkel is records manager of Champaign Economic Partnership.