By Matt Sanctis
The Ohio Hi-Point Career Center will start a new program with Triad schools to begin developing manufacturing skills as early as middle school and fill a growing demand for workers in the industry.
Champaign County saw a roughly 23 percent increase in manufacturing jobs between 2011 and 2013, said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the Champaign Economic Partnership. But employers statewide have said that a lack of skilled workers makes it tough to fill many of those positions.
Nationally, more than 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed over the next 10 years, but as many as 2 million may go unfilled due to the ongoing skills gap, according to a recent study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from local manufacturers that we need programs that will provide them with skilled workers,” said Debbie Wortman, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center satellite director.
Beginning this fall, Ohio Hi-Point will start a three- to four-year process to implement a series of manufacturing courses at Triad middle and high schools. Ohio Hi-Point is also developing similar programs at Bellefontaine High School in Logan County and Kenton middle and high schools in Hardin County, Wortman said.
An initial course at Triad Middle School will cover basic manufacturing principles. Other courses could cover topics like welding, machine operations, robotics, blueprint reading and other skills needed by local companies. The program will also allow students to try just a few courses, Wortman said, and take on more if the topics interest them.
“We definitely want to always allow multiple entry and exit points,” she said about the program.
About 80 students at Triad have already enrolled in the new program when classes start on Aug. 19, Superintendent Chris Piper said. Jonathan Alder Junior High School in Plain City, where Piper previously worked, also had a manufacturing program. It’s been a goal to develop something similar at Triad since he took over as superintendent, he said.
Although the classes will take place at Triad, Ohio Hi-Point’s satellite programs are open to all of the career center’s students, so Urbana, Graham and other schools can participate as well, Wortman said. The initial start-up costs for the program will be absorbed through Ohio Hi-Point’s general fund.
The eventual goal is to work with local manufacturing firms so every senior in the program has an opportunity for an internship, Piper said.
Manufacturing has a significant economic impact in Champaign County, Bailey said. The industry employed close to 3,500 workers there in 2014, according to information compiled by the Dayton Development Coalition. Manufacturing also accounts for about 30 percent of the county’s gross regional product, or the value of goods and services produced in the county.
Firms across the region often compete for the same small pool of workers who have the skills companies are looking for, said Dan Szklany, plant manager at Orbis in Urbana. The company makes a range of products, including plastic pallets and plastic reuseable packaging for the food and beverage and automotive industries.
“What we end up doing is just stealing them from each other,” said Szklany of the local workforce.
Logan Algren, a senior at Graham High School, was working as a temporary employee at Orbis through an Ohio Hi-Point program this week. He’ll attend the University of Advancing Technology in Arizona this fall on a scholarship, and then wants to work for the U.S. Department of Defense. But he said the experience at Orbis has been interesting and he would consider coming back eventually to manufacturing.
The skills gap grew over several years as schools across the U.S. began cutting back on technical programs, Szklany said, and it will take a while to rebuild the manufacturing workforce.
“We’re trying to make up for lost time is what we’re doing,” Szklany said.
The Springfield News-Sun provides unmatched coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties. For this story, the paper spoke to area economic development officials, businesses and school leaders to explain a new training program to teach students manufacturing skills.
By the Numbers
3.5 million — Estimated manufacturing jobs needed in the next 10 years
2 million — Estimated jobs expected to remain unfilled
3,487 — Manufacturing jobs in Champaign County in 2014
6 percent — Current Champaign county manufacturing workforce ages 19 to 24
Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, Champaign County Economic Development