Champaign County businesses are struggling to find enough qualified, skilled employees to fill job openings. And local students need the education and skills to prepare for these in-demand career opportunities.
Local business and school representatives are working together to address both sides of this equation through the Champaign Business Advisory Council (BAC). The BAC complements workforce development efforts of the Champaign Economic Partnership, CEP Director Marcia Bailey said.
The Champaign-Madison Educational Service Center (ESC) formed the BAC about three years ago when a new state law called for school districts to form BACs, to build relationships between businesses and schools. The local BAC includes representatives of the five county school districts, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, the ESC, local businesses, and Ashley Cook, business liaison for the CEP.
Businesses active in the BAC are primarily in manufacturing, but the BAC is inviting more types of businesses to get involved, said Jill O’Neal, a BAC member and human resources manager for Weidmann Electrical Technology in Urbana.
“We welcome more business leaders to attend to provide their input in local workforce needs and how to enhance school curriculum to prepare students,” O’Neal said.
Scott DeLong, president of Champaign Residential Services Inc. (CRSI), has become an active member. He wants to help address the need for qualified job candidates in human services and health care. “I’m excited about the work we’re doing, and hopefully we can keep more students in the community after graduation.”
The BAC meets quarterly, with 2019 meetings scheduled at 1 p.m.
June 26 at Bundy Baking Solutions, Sept. 5 at Champaign Residential Services Inc. and Dec. 5 at Graham High School.
O’Neal said that the BAC includes three active subcommittees: · Business Relations, to strengthen the working relationship between businesses and schools · Workforce Development, to address current and future workforce needs in the county · Curriculum Development, to develop educational programs in local schools to prepare students for in-demand careers after graduation Dan Kaffenbarger, ESC superintendent, said, “The BAC creates a line of communication and collaboration between the schools and businesses.
Our short-term goal is to inform older students about job opportunities in the county. For the longer term, we’re looking at middle school and early high school students, to help them develop soft skills (such as work ethic and critical thinking) and provide curriculum that will give them the competitive advantage that employers are looking for.”
Businesses leaders interested in learning more about the BAC may call Kaffenbarger at the ESC, 937-484-1557.
Ten monitors will be placed in public areas – one each at the five Champaign County high schools; in the villages of Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris; Urbana University; and Ohio Hi-Point. The monitors will be installed beginning in late August. Content shown on the monitors will be generated by the CEP.
Urbana University and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center are providing funds to purchase the monitors and associated equipment, while DP&L and FASTLANE are assisting with funding for ongoing media service to broadcast content on the monitors.
CEP Director Marcia Bailey added that Berry Digital Solutions is helping the CEP manage the project and that Weidmann Electrical Technology Inc. funded the original monitor at the CEP.
The purpose, she said, is to inform students and other county residents about local career opportunities and education and training available to prepare students for the workforce “I’m a strong believer in the education-workforce ecosystem. And the CEP is leading the way to organizing education and employers, preparing talent to meet the needs of our employers,” said Christopher Washington, executive vice president and CEO of Urbana University, a branch campus of Franklin University.
The monitors are the ideal way to deliver the information, he adds.
“Kids today are digitally wired and pay attention to what’s on the screen.”
Kelsey Webb, Ohio Hi-Point director of communications and marketing, said, “We’re participating because this is completely in our wheelhouse to prepare students for career or college. We’re excited to help spread the message that there are great opportunities here for students.”
Information about business sponsorships is available by contacting the CEP at 937-653-7200 or email@example.com
“You can also keep up with the latest local economic development news on the CEP’s website, CEPOhio.com, by liking the CEP Facebook page, and by following the CEP on Twitter,” CEP Director Marcia Bailey said.
Job listings featured on the window monitor also can be viewed on CommunityJobConnect.com, the CEP’s local job posting and search website, available free of charge to local employers and job seekers. Employers can post local employment opportunities, and job seekers can apply and post their resumes.
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.
The company is also boosting its payroll and spending at least $500,000 in new equipment as part of an expansion valued at around $2.7 million, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
Weidmann, a Swiss-based company, produces specialty insulation for transformers. The expansion is expected to be complete by March next year. The company currently has about 140 workers.
“We’re looking at increasing our capacity within the facility,” said Mark Hunter, plant controller at Weidmann. “Since we opened our doors in 2011, we’ve gone from initially 75 employees and we’re expected to be around 164. We’ve just grown so much in terms of our business and because of that to be able to maintain increased sales, we needed to add more space onto our facility.”
Documents filed with local government entities show the company will add 20 workers as part of the expansion, but the manufacturer hired four additional workers just before making the announcement, for a total of 24 workers, Hunter said. The new jobs will include a variety of position, from forklift operators to maintenance technicians, as well as line workers and a safety coordinator.
The company will add a roughly $500,000 piece of equipment used to cut the paper produced at the company, in addition to the expansion and new jobs, Hunter said.
The company’s current payroll is a little more than $9 million and it will add about $835,000 as part of the expansion, Bailey said.
Local school districts and the city of Urbana approved a Community Reinvestment Area agreement that will provide a 100-percent property tax abatement for 15 years for the addition to the facility, Bailey said. The company will continue to pay its full share of taxes on its existing payroll and property, but will receive an abatement for the expansion.
The city and Urbana school district will split income taxes from the additional payroll evenly, she said.
OhioMeansJobs Champaign County will also work with the company to provide training for the existing employees who need additional training to operate the new equipment, Bailey said.
The company’s growth has been a bright spot in Champaign County’s economy, Bailey said. Weidmann initially took a leap of faith and pledged to provide jobs for 75 workers when the business moved into the former Neenah Paper Inc. site on West Court Street.
Neenah had closed a paper mill at the site in 2007, leaving about 180 workers without jobs. The property was a brownfield site, she said, and Weidmann’s decision to invest in the property reopened a site that could have become an eyesore.
“They’ve doubled the expectation from when they first came,” Bailey said of the company’s growth since it opened in Urbana. “They’ve kept the integrity of the historic building and they’ve been a great asset in the neighborhood as well.”
Along with the Weidmann announcement, the city also reached an agreement with a local developer this month to clean up the former Q3 and Johnson Manufacturing site that’s been vacant since 2008. True Inspection Services, an Urbana-based developer, will clean up and redevelop the 20-acre site at Miami and Beech streets.
City leaders have said the redevelopment of that property is expected to take two years and may begin as soon as next month.
The Springfield News-Sun provides award-winning coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including stories tracking local unemployment rates and digging into expansion plans at major employers like Honda.
By the numbers
24 — Total new jobs to be added, including 4 recent hires
2,600 square feet — size of the expansion
$834,000 — New payroll to be added
$9M — Company’s current estimated payroll