Manufacturers, Educators Share Ideas For Boosting Interest In Careers

Local manufacturers, educators, students and parents gathered at Brandywine County Club on May 25 for a roundtable discussion hosted by Gilmore Jasion Mahler, a public accounting group.
Spangler Candy is one of the hundreds of Northwest Ohio manufacturing facilities in need of qualified employees. PHOTO COURTESY OF SPANGLER CANDY

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Mike Farrar ran into a hardworking young man at a quick oil change shop, Farrar invited him to apply for a job with his company. “He had a great work ethic and attitude,” said Farrar, who is president of Automation & Control Technologies (A.C.T.), an industrial repair company in Perrysburg. Because he had the ability to learn and grow, that young man turned out to be a valuable employee who earned an electrical engineering degree in the process. Sitting in on a roundtable discussion with other manufacturers last month, Farrar shared how his company is always in need of skilled employees who can work on robots and industrial machinery, in both the Perrysburg and Charlotte, N.C., locations. “Schools need to teach students about three-phase industrial power, not how to fix radios,” Farrar said. “There’s a stigma that these are dead-end jobs. But you can come and make money and have very little or no school debt.” Changing the public’s perception, tailoring educational programs and creating advisory panels at schools are just a few of the ideas for attracting youth into manufacturing jobs. Gilmore Jasion Mahler Ltd., a public accounting firm that works with many clients in manufacturing, hosted panel discussions on May 25 in Maumee and Findlay, with the goal of getting students and manufacturers on the same page. “We know that the lack of young people pursuing the skilled trades has strained area manufacturers for many years,” said CPA Charlie Heid, who leads Gilmore Jasion Mahler’s Manufacturing Specialist Group. “We hear from our manufacturing clients that this is perhaps the biggest challenge they continue to face.” To encourage discussion, Heid and his firm’s marketing manager, Susan Ross Wells, pulled together educators, parents and students to field questions from over 100 manufacturing company representatives. A 2016 Ohio Department of Education survey with 12,000 responses highlights some of the reasons why students don’t engage in career-focused coursework. For most, it’s because they don’t know enough about the options available, and because many teachers either aren’t confident in providing career training or don’t feel it’s their job. On the flip side, students say they would take more interest in manufacturing jobs if employers had more input in the classroom, made plant tours more readily available to students and offered internships and weekend jobs for ages 16 and older. Toledo Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant and Penta Career Center Superintendent Ron Matter shared how manufacturing and careers are integrated into their classrooms, with input from local industry leaders to keep the equipment and training up to date. “It goes beyond ‘Show up on time and be drug-free.’ We need to know what skills we need to emphasize,” Matter said, adding that each program has its own set of advisors. Penta graduate Andrew Billups recommends that students develop skills and prove themselves in the job setting in order to get the salary and opportunities they want. Although he focused on criminal justice while at Penta, Andrew actively sought out opportunities in manufacturing. He is now learning about precision machining at Toolcomp. “It’s extremely stressful, but I love what I do. It’s the basis of the U.S. economy,” said Andrew. His father David, an engineer with Schindler Elevator, said some parents are not open-minded about career options for their children. “I’ve seen some adults who didn’t excel in school but do well in the workforce,” he said. “As a parent, you know your child’s skills, aptitude and interests. You can help find a path that works for them.” Four-year degrees have long been pushed as the only path to success, Matter said, but a degree doesn’t necessarily lead to a desired job title or a satisfying career. Going a step further, Farrar encourages his peers to understand Millennials, who he believes don’t like getting mentored by older employees. Young adults also don’t like the idea of embarking on a career that will keep them in one location for 40 years. The ability to learn while on the job has appeal to Millennials, he said. “People in this industry become entrepreneurs. They learn to do something and then start their own business,” Farrar said. A 2016 report from the Governor’s Office on Workforce Transformation shows that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be phased out in the coming years due to technological advances. For workers to advance, they’ll need to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist, with skills such as the ability to think creatively and define and solve problems, and the agility to transfer knowledge to different settings. Michael Veh, director of Business and Workforce Services at the Lucas County Department of Planning and Development, said there are untapped resources, including Ohio Means Jobs and The Source, to help manufacturers find and train quality workers. Northwest State Community College and Terra State Community College teamed up to open the Advanced Manufact-uring Training Center on The University of Toledo’s Scott Park Campus, offering a variety of training programs. Those attending the roundtable included: Altenloh Brinck & Co., American Floors & Interiors, Automatic Handling International Inc., Autotec Engineering, Bollin Label Systems, Bolt Express, CDC Fab Co., Checker Distribution, CIFT, CoolSeal USA, Cooper Tire, Crown Battery Manufacturing Co., Cutting Edge Countertops, Encompass Engineers & Architects, Foundation Steel LLC, Four County Career Center, GSW Manufacturing, Harbor Capital Advisors, Helm Instrument Company Inc., Helms & Sons Excavating, Ice Industries Inc., Koester Metals Inc., Lucas County, Mennel Milling Company, Millstream Career Center, OCP contractors, Ohio Governor’s Office, Owens Community College, PBF Energy/Toledo, Penta Career Center, Refining Company, Penta Career Center, Principle Business Enterprises, Rhodes State College, Rimer Enterprises, Rowmark, Rudolph Libbe Group, Spangler Candy, State Rep. Bill Reineke, Tarpstop LLC, The Ohio Art Company, Toledo Chamber of Commerce, Tour de Force Inc., Triple Diamond Plastics, Universal Metals LLC, Vanguard Sentinel Career & Technology Center, VSI Global, Winzeler Stamping Company and Valfilm.

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