Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition creates pathways for skilled workers to find viable jobs

By Sean Barron


The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is proud to have helped create pathways for skilled workers to find viable jobs and for companies to more readily tap into such a workforce, both of which are a blueprint for the organization’s main five-year plan.

“We hope to continue with the strategies that have worked for the first five years,” Jessica Borza, the MVMC’s executive director, said during the organization’s quarterly membership meeting Friday morning at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

About 60 business leaders, educators and others attended the 90-minute session, largely to celebrate the coalition’s achievements since its inception in September 2011.

A group of small to mid-sized local manufacturers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties started the MVMC mainly to form educational pathways to help create a better skilled workforce to meet the needs of member companies. Since then, the coalition has formed 100 partnerships with regional universities, trade schools, economic-development entities and numerous manufacturing businesses, Borza noted.

Primary accomplishments include securing nearly $18 million in grants and sponsorships, acting as the lead agency for a $2.9 million Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network and reviving previously idled machinist-training programs. The MVMC also took part in a collaborative effort to identify specific skills sought by regional manufacturers.

Andreas Foerster, president of Starr Manufacturing Inc. of Vienna; Mike Garvey, president of M7 Technologies in Youngstown; and Jock Buta, executive vice president of Salem-based Butech Bliss, discussed industry trends, projections and demands. Serving as the panel’s moderator was Vindicator business reporter Kalea Hall.

All three pointed to an initial need to fill a huge gap between the number of manufacturing jobs and the availability of qualified young people for them. That served as an impetus for his business to reach out to trade schools such as MCCTC, Buta recalled.

Implementing or changing curriculums to fit such demands was a key to the MVMC’s success in bridging the gap, Garvey said.

“People want careers, not just a job,” he added.

Garvey stressed that a trend in manufacturing over the next several years likely will be the increased ubiquity of technology, especially in machine shops, along with the need for added training in digital technology.

It’s crucial to further educate young people and make them feel like a valuable part of the company, as well as to recognize the diversity of those entering the workforce, Foerster and Buta explained.

Another critical piece to achieving higher goals in the workplace is being vigilant and trying to tackle the drug epidemic in the Mahoning Valley, Foerster stressed.

“You will come clean to your job,” he said.

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