When recruiting for jobs that require specialized skills, employers compete for a limited pool of qualified candidates. Ohio’s Registered Apprenticeship program, available locally through OhioMeansJobs Champaign County (OMJCC), helps employers overcome this challenge and build their skilled workforce from within.
“It’s probably the best way to supply employers a pipeline of reliable, skilled employees,” says Andrea Mitchell, business services representative of OMJCC.
Through the Registered Apprenticeship program employers provide proven, valued employees the opportunity to learn new skills through structured on-the-job training that meets industry standards, aligned with technical instruction from an approved school – all while getting paid. “Apprentices earn a livable wage as they learn,” Mitchell says.
The Rittal North America facility in Urbana currently has three employees enrolled in the apprenticeship program, with a fourth possibly beginning in early 2021, says Dan Yohey, quality engineer and manager of apprenticeships at Rittal.
Rittal has one industrial engineering apprentice, David Vanderveen, an assembler with the company for six years, and two maintenance technician apprentices, Billy Warren and Malik Tanksley, who have been at Rittal for less than two years.
Vanderveen started his apprenticeship in late February 2020, and Warren and Tanksley, in late May 2020. All three are enrolled in 8,000-hour/four-year programs at Clark State Community College, with which Rittal has previously partnered with for internships. The length of apprenticeships varies by industry and occupation.
The apprentices are completing on-the-job training under the supervision of mentors, who are among 10 Rittal engineers, managers and senior technicians who completed mentorship training developed for Rittal by Clark State.
The Registered Apprenticeship program is employer-driven. This means, says Mitchell, that employers:
After developing its apprenticeship training program, in partnership with Clark State and OMJCC, Rittal took the plan to the Greater Ohio Workforce Development Board, Inc. (GOWBI) for approval and certification. As the apprenticeship sponsor, GOWBI conducts audits and other administrative services on behalf of Rittal.
In addition to benefitting the company and apprentices, Yohey says, “The apprenticeship program sends a message to the rest of the workforce in the plant that, based on the success of these individuals, that we’re walking the walk and offering career advancement opportunities at Rittal—not just longevity. It boosts morale.”
The apprenticeships also benefit the mentors, Frost says. Serving as mentors “is their next progression on that ladder of moving up…. You invest the time and money to send them through the training, and it says, ‘We trust you, and you’re on your way up.’”
Apprenticeships increase employee retention rates, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And they reduce the time invested in recruiting skilled employees – in competition with other employers – and orienting them to the culture, products and processes of a new workplace.
“It’s a lot easier to develop your skilled workforce rather than competing with other companies and bringing them in from the outside,” Yohey said. “It’s pretty competitive right now. The need for technicians and engineers, it’s pretty cutthroat.”
Frost adds, “When we onboard a new engineer, we look at from six to 12 weeks before they bring any value, just because they’re trying to learn what we do. When we bring up somebody from in the company, the learning curve is so much less, and we can get right to the technical aspects of their training. They’re instantly bringing some value.”
To learn more about the Registered Apprenticeship program, call OhioMeansJobs Champaign County at 937-484-1581. OMJCC is available to provide employers presentations – onsite or virtually – about the Registered Apprenticeship program and other OMJCC workforce training services.
To keep up with increasing orders, Rittal is recruiting 40 more assemblers, machine operators and welders to join its total Urbana workforce of more than 500, Love says.
In addition, Rittal recently invested more than $3 million in state-of-the-art equipment to form metal for IT enclosures.
News like this, during the pandemic, is very encouraging,” says CEP Director Marcia Bailey. “Champaign County is fortunate to have a diverse mix of businesses and employers like Rittal who are growing, planning for the future and providing new jobs for our community.”
Rittal is investing in current and future workforce needs, Love said. Here are three examples:
· Apprenticeships to develop engineers: Rittal, partnering with ApprenticeOhio and Clark State Community College, has three four-year apprentices – one in industrial engineering and two in maintenance engineering.
David Vanderveen, an assembler at Rittal for six years, is the industrial engineering apprentice. He was looking into returning to school for engineering when Rittal announced the apprenticeship. About Vanderveen, Love says: “He’s one of those hidden gems you have in your organization. He’s growing very quickly and showing great potential in his apprenticeship.”
Love adds, “Increasingly there is a drive for apprenticeships, as we have less people with technical backgrounds in the workplace. It’s a great way to grow our capability.” And it provides the Rittal apprentices the chance to advance their careers while being paid and avoiding debt from education.
Vanderveen is working under the mentorship of Rittal Industrial Manager Steve Butka, while studying online through Clark State. He will begin in-person labs at Clark State this fall.
· Partnership with TAC (The Abilities Connection): TAC, which serves and employs people with developmental or physical disabilities, has placed five associates who support Rittal’s industrial engineering team. They cut gaskets for IT racks and complete other tasks as needed.
Claus Wolf, Rittal’s Sourcing and Procurement Manager, said that the partnership has “helped us as a business when hiring for open positions is challenging. And it’s helped us to connect with the wider community and to provide purposeful work” for TAC associates.
· Partnership with University of Dayton: A team of business undergraduates completed their senior capstone project at Rittal, for which they won the University of Dayton’s 2020 Outstanding Operations Senior Team of the Year Award.
Wolf said he gave the team free rein to investigate ways to reorganize Rittal’s wood-based product supply chain, including pallets. “They found a vendor that saved us more than $100,000. They found a solution that we couldn’t even when we tried several times,” Wolf said. Rittal plans to continue the partnership with an eye on expanding its talent pool.
Judges for the contest were George Walker of Advanced Technology Products (ATP); Andrea Mitchell of Job and Family Services; and Nicole Rush of the St. Paris Public Library.
Assisting with the contest were Jason Taylor of Shaffer Manufacturing/ Bundy Baking Solutions, donating the mouse traps; and Dan Yohey of Rittal, creating and making the trophies for the winners.
October is National Manufacturing Month
“We are fortunate to have such diversity of manufacturing in Champaign County,” said Marcia Bailey, CEP Director. “We want our young people to understand the career choices that exist in manufacturing and having this opportunity helps them gain first-hand knowledge. We have approximately 3,700 people working in manufacturing in our community and many companies are looking for skilled employees.”
Last year, the CEP, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, Urbana University, and manufacturers from around the area created the inaugural Champaign County Design Challenge. After a successful first year, the design challenge is returning. For the second year in a row, approximately 90 students from Graham, Mechanicsburg, Triad, Urbana, and West Liberty-Salem are participating.
The student teams were challenged to design a mousetrap race car within a series of criteria and constraints under the guidance of an industry mentor. Each school participating can have up to four teams with five students and is open to middle or high school students. For the challenge, the mousetrap car must include five simple machines and four wheels with the goal of the car going 20 feet. The teams cannot purchase or 3D print materials.
The mentors for the teams are Steven Brandeberry from JWP, Zack Zizzo and Stephen Oser from Orbis, Mike Wagner from Navistar, Colin Turcu, Hayden Gephart, and Ethan Hess from KTH, Jeff Helman from Rosewood Machine and Tool, Jacob Schmitt from Ultra-Met, Dan Yohey from Rittal, Tyler Bumbalough from the Urbana City Engineering division, and Steve McCall from Champaign County Engineer.
“The goal of the design challenge is to expose students to local manufacturers, interact with professionals, and use their creativity to complete a project,” said Allison Koch, Ohio Hi-Point Satellite Supervisor. “The groups are being judged on their collaboration and their ability to explain their successes and challenges.”
The teams compete at their school district and the winning team from each school district advance to the countylevel competition held at Urbana University on November 1. All participants are invited to listen to the finalists present each team’s design to the judges.
During the event, students are also able to participate in a tradeshow with local manufacturers.
“Design thinking happens at the intersection of art and science. Designers direct our lifestyle, create our products, and shape the environments where we live, work, and play,” said Dr. Christopher Washington, Executive Vice President and CEO of Urbana University. “Urbana University is proud to host the Champaign County Design Challenge event for young designers in our region.”
The Champaign County Design Challenge trophy is currently housed at last year’s winning school, Triad High School.
For more information about manufacturing programs for students, please visit www.ohiohipoint.com or www.urbana.edu.
More people confident enough to start looking for jobs, expert says.
By Hasan Karim, Springfield News-Sun Staff Writer
ONLY IN THE NEWS-SUN
State figures showed the unemployment rates in Clark and Champaign counties went up in July as the local labor force continues to grow.
The unemployment rate increased to 4.9% in Clark County, up from 4.2% in June. The increase comes as the county’s labor force has seen steady growth over recent months, according to state data released by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
In Champaign County, unemployment rose to 4.3%, which is up from the 3.6% reported in June. Both counties experienced a downward trend in unemployment numbers starting at the beginning of the year. However, that rate increased slightly in May and has continued to increase into July.
“This is one of those cases in which the unemployment rate went up for the right reasons,”said Bill LaFayette, an economist and owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm.
LaFayette said the labor force in Clark County is larger than what is usually projected for July, leading to an increase in the unemployment rate. Though unemployment tends to go up between the summer months, more people are either currently employed or looking for work compared to the same period last year, he added.
Clark County’s labor force at the end of July had 64,200 people, according to data collected by the Ohio DJFS.
Those numbers showed a decrease of 100 people in the county’s labor force compared to the previous month.
However, there is usually a dip of around 700 people in the county’s labor force between June and July, LaFayette said, noting that a decrease of only 100 people shows that more people are confident enough to start looking for jobs.
He added that those numbers do not take into account seasonal patterns that affect labor and unemployment trends. Those factors can include seasonal employment, major holidays and school schedules.
Taking into account those seasonal factors would bring Clark County’s unemployment rate closer to 4.4 percent in July, compared to a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.9 percent reported in June.
LaFayette said factoring in seasonal patterns also brings Clark County’s labor force for July to 64,100 people and that is actually an increase of 600 compared to June’s seasonally adjusted numbers. He said the labor force compared to this time last year is up 1.3 percent.
“For Clark County, this is very good given that the population is stagnant,” LaFayette said. Clark County’s population was estimated to be 134,585 people last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Amy Donahoe, director of workforce development with the Chamber of Greater Springfield, said local companies are taking a more aggressive approach in attracting people that are not in the workforce. She said that includes raising starting wages as well as tweaking benefit packages.
“We have seen record low unemployment numbers in the past year,” Donahoe said.
“Employers have responded to that. They want to make sure they are attracting and retaining good talent.”
Ohio’s seasonally adjusted unemployment in July was 4 percent and remained the same from June, according to the Ohio DJFS. The national rate was 3.7 percent in July, also unchanged from June.
In Champaign County, the labor force decreased by 100 from June and had 20,100 people last month. The number of those reported as employed also went down by 100, according to the most recent information from the Ohio D JFS.
Marcia Bailey, director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, said despite a dip in the labor force, there is not a shortage of job openings in the county, especially in manufacturing and healthcare.
“There are still plenty of job opportunities here. We are still seeing pretty consistent openings,” Bailey said.
She said local manufacturer Rittal has recently posted a notice that it will be conducting open interviews on Tuesday. The company is looking to hire assembly operators, machine operators, welders and paint loader/unloaders, according to the notice.
Bailey said the starting hourly wages for those positions range from $13.40 to $16, according to information provided by Rittal.
Contact this reporter at 937- 328-0355 or email Hasan.Abdul-Karim@coxinc.com.
The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties and has covered recent stories relating to wage increases, the latest housing numbers and job growth.
JOBLESS RATES - 2019