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Home / Blog / Manufacturing : Cool Jobs: How Can the Manufacturing Industry Team up with Educators, Part 3

cool jobsPart 3 of a 3 Part Series

This three-part series will investigate the impact felt by manufacturers as their labor force ages and retires. Several studies point to a significant impact over the next ten to fifteen years as these workers retire with little to no skilled workforce to take their place. In this last of a three-part series, we will address ways in which manufacturing and education can team up to solve the problem. Click links to view Part 1 and Part 2.

The Problem

As we have seen in Part 1 of this series, one of the biggest problems facing manufacturers is an image problem with the young people of today. Manufacturing is often falsely viewed as dirty, dark, dangerous work, rather than the bright, energetic atmospheres that consist in many facilities today. Kids and parents alike view these jobs as undesirable. We know that parents have the most influence over career decisions. This doesn’t mean that manufacturers and educators cannot team up to work on a solution to this image problem.

Suggested Solutions

Partnerships between Industry and Education

A common theme among various reports on the skills gap in manufacturing is that manufacturers need to partner with local career centers and community colleges. This partnership would focus on identifying the gaps in that particular region and developing educational programs to deliver the proper programs. Along with that, manufacturers who can donate equipment to those educational programs can facilitate the learning process.

These partnerships are often difficult and take a long time to formulate, so another way manufacturers and educators can work together is to make the process more streamlined. Others who can be folded into these partnerships include workforce training boards, universities and other organizations that provide training.

Apprenticeship Programs

Approximately 30% of high school graduates do not go on to college, according to a BCG June 2012 study. These young adults create a potential group of trainees for manufacturers, yet less than 0.5% of the U.S. workforce is classified as “Apprentice”. Only 7 of the programs identified in career and technical schools by PolymerOhio are identified as “Apprenticeship” programs. Much more common in Europe, apprenticeships offer on-the-job training and educational opportunities for potential employees.

Work with a Non-Profit

Non-profit organizations, such as PolymerOhio, are perfectly situated to facilitate relationships between manufacturers and training resources. Through our OH!Manufacturing connection to the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, we have developed relationships with many programs available to both high school and adult workers.

Provide Tours to Students & Educators

One of the best ways to begin debunking the myths of manufacturing is to provide tours of manufacturing facilities to students, parents and educators. PolymerOhio can help to make connections between schools and manufacturers.

During Manufacturing Month, which is in October, PolymerOhio collaborates with a team of Ohio organizations that includes non-profit organizations, the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education and many others. Our goal is to lift the veil that hangs over manufacturing by facilitating tours and open houses at manufacturing facilities across Ohio. We offer these events to students and educators alike in order to allow them to see the great potential that lies beyond factory walls. You can Contact PolymerOhio to participate in this year’s effort, or to schedule a tour during any time of year.

Update Recruitment and Retention Methods

Today’s potential employees are marching to a different drummer. Manufacturers will need to adapt their recruitment and retention methodologies in order to meet these potential employees where they are. Out-dated methods, such as word-of-mouth recruiting are no longer going to bring in the applicants. New approaches could come in the form of branding changes that show an enticing image of careers and earning potential. Utilizing social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to promote job opportunities or company brand will be more likely to reach the younger set.

Manufacturing Programs Available in Ohio

In Ohio, 43 counties are home to more than 240 manufacturing and/or polymer-based programs at career and technical centers* alone. Nearly every center has some type of short- or long-term program for welding, most for both high school and adult learners. Welding jobs are in high demand, especially in eastern Ohio, where fracking has drawn the skilled welders away from manufacturing. These centers also feature programs in:

  • Maintenance
  • Machining and CNC
  • Forklift driving
  • Manufacturing Engineering Technology/Engineering & Design
  • Electricity/Electronics
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Robotics
  • Oil & Gas Power System Maintenance

Some centers also offer online programs, although those are not very common, as to be expected with this type of hands-on work. Some of the programs offer apprenticeships or certification opportunities. You can contact PolymerOhio for a list of career and technical centers in your area.

In addition to the career and technical centers in Ohio, there are dozens of community colleges and universities offering programs. Most have programs in engineering, chemistry, or other areas that are applicable to polymers or manufacturing. These programs can also be excellent resources for manufacturers in need of employees.

Central Ohio Making Strides

One new program being made available to ninth and tenth graders in Knox County is called START, which stands for Skilled Trades Aptitude Readiness Training. Dubbed the “Sophomore Career Readiness Program”, program provides young students with the opportunity to explore several fields while earning high school credit. The program, facilitated by both local manufacturers and local educators, is discussed during the freshman year and made available to sophomores. It provides them with the opportunity to really dig into the career paths available through Knox County Career Center.

At the Delaware Area Career Center, students benefit from a relationship built with Honda Marysville by having the opportunity to work on a hybrid vehicle, supplied by Honda. These students provides students with skills they would not otherwise be able to learn. According to the Auto Technology Instructor, Mark McKinney, “There are a lot of safety issues involved with working on a Hybrid, so teaching our students early how to navigate their way through these complex vehicles will not only make them more employable, but will keep them safer, too.” As more companies adopt Hybrids into their fleets, this can be a valuable skill for employers to seek.

Several other area career and technical centers have developed valuable relationships with manufacturers, but more needs to be done.

The Most Important Tool: Collaboration

The most important thing that manufacturers and educators at all levels can do is to collaborate. Manufacturing is changing rapidly as new technologies are identified and adopted in the workplace. They will need to work with training organizations to help keep them updated. Educators will need to take initiative in reaching out to manufacturers for tours and insight. Each small area of Ohio is different in what is being manufactured, what types of employees are needed and what types of programs are available. The only way to develop a synergy that benefits everyone is through collaboration.


*Ohio Higher Ed

“The Skills Gap Report” by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute

“The U.S. Skills Gap: Could it Threaten a Manufacturing Renaissance?” by The Boston Consulting Group

Industry Spotlight: Manufacturing” by Ohio Higher Ed

“Current Issues in HR: Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap” by SHRM Foundation

“Middle Skill Training for the Polymer Industry” A partnership with The Ohio Board of Regents and University System of Ohio (contact us for a copy)

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