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Local agency renews manufacturing program

A Clark County non-profit is spending more than $100,000 to renovate office space and resurrect a manufacturing training program it had mothballed during the recent recession.

Opportunities for Individual Change of Clark County is purchasing new equipment and making renovations to a facility at 26 S. Yellow Springs St. to begin a precision machining program as early as this summer.

The new 10-week courses are part of a recent collaboration with Clark State Community College, the Springfield City School District, Ohio Means Jobs of Clark County and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Local officials said the initiative is an indication that manufacturing in the region is recovering, although there is still a gap between the number of trained employees and available jobs.

The program, unveiled late last month, will provide manufacturing training and basic job skills for adults and create a pipeline for area manufacturers looking for qualified employees, said Mike Calabrese, executive director of OIC of Clark County.

“We want to be involved in jobs that provide good and reliable living wages,” Calabrese said.

Under the program, students will take basic manufacturing courses at the city schools’ Learning Cafe or Clark State. However, the OIC will provide more specialized training in a second phase that will allow graduates to seek work as entry level machinists or Computer Numeric Control operators.

Initially, OIC’s portion of the program will include about a dozen students and begin as early as July, Calabrese said.

The goal is to provide graduates with basic manufacturing training, with the expectation area firms in search of qualified workers will be willing to pay a slightly higher wage than to the traditional entry-level employee.

OIC had offered training in precision machining for several years in the past. But when the recent recession hit, those jobs faded away and it decided to cancel the courses.

“We did not want to train people for jobs that didn’t exist,” Calabrese said.

However, manufacturing in the region has been making gains in recent years, said Mike McDorman, chamber president. In the most recent state jobs report issued last month, manufacturing added the most jobs of any sector in the state — with a gain of about 3,700 jobs.

Information from the Dayton Regional Manufacturer’s Association shows the industry employs more than 112,500 workers across the Miami Valley and provides about $5.6 billion in payroll in the region.

Some of the recent gains have occurred as companies who previously moved work overseas began to see rising costs and realized they had better control of logistics by moving work back to the U.S., McDorman said.

“I think a lot of companies looked at that and now things have changed,” McDorman said.

OIC maintains its primary office at 10 S. Yellow Springs St., but purchased the facility at 26 S. Yellow Springs St. a few years ago, Calabrese said. The building was vacant but will now be updated and put to good use.

“We took an empty building that could have been an eyesore and made good use of it,” Calabrese said.

The partnership has worked out well for all of the local entities involved, said Duane Hodge, director of workforce development at Clark State and the project manager for the manufacturing initiative. During the four months the agencies have worked together, Clark State has donated equipment, curriculum development, instructors and other resources to help OIC get its portion of the program back up and running.

“This program creates a pipeline for entry level and precision machining workers that will have solid manufacturing foundational skills and certifications,” Hodge said. “The employers who helped us set up this program told us this program closes the skills gaps they are encountering through their normal recruitment processes.”

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