Grant aims to build work force in manufacturing
By Burton Speakman
A $6 million federal grant is designed to help recruit and retain a qualified manufacturing work force within five counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The grant is aimed at helping manufacturing businesses learn what they need from potential employees, said Eric Karmecy, Oh-Penn Pathways project manager for the West Central Job Partnership, which is overseeing the grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Karmecy spoke about the grant at Wednesday’s meeting of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center here.
The grant is designed specifically to provide training for future and current manufacturing employees in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania.
Most grant money for work-force development in the area had been geared toward health-care professions, Karmecy said.
“We realized we needed investment in manufacturing,” he said. “We need clear and effective career pathways.”
The five counties all enjoy a low cost of living and strong manufacturing base, but they also share challenges including an aging infrastructure and work force, Karmecy said.
Part of the grant includes being evaluated by the federal government to determine how successful the program has been, he said. The money has to be spent in an effective manner.
“It’s going to take total community cooperation if we want this to be successful,” Karmecy said. “We need employers at the table to help tell what resources are needed in each county.”
A $6 million grant to help the manufacturing industry is phenomenal, said Jessica Borza, coalition executive director.
In terms of training, representatives of local career centers also spoke about how their programs have been impacted by the work of the MVMC in the past year.
Matt Peters, who teaches machining at Salem High School, said MVMC members have helped to increase enrollment in his courses from 20 to 25 students typically to 32 this year.
“Members come to the school to talk to students about careers in manufacturing,” he said.
The work of the coalition has helped all the local career and technical centers to examine and adjust their curricula to help meet the needs of businesses in manufacturing, said Vickie Thompson, adult education director at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center. One of the changes is a new course that puts students into local businesses so they can experience what it’s like to work in manufacturing.
Chuck Adkins, superintendent at Columbiana County Career and Technical Center, said more students are enrolling in its welding program at both the adult and high-school levels.
“We had 64 applicants for 50 positions in our junior welding class,” he said. “It was good to be able to do interviews and select the best 50.”