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New program to train manufacturing workforce

A program rolling out in April will provide basic manufacturing training for students and adults, while trying to build a pipeline between the workforce and local employers.

More than a dozen area manufacturing firms gathered at the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center on Friday to review the program’s curriculum and provide feedback before the program begins.

If successful, the program could aid area companies to expand and invest, and encourage existing firms to remain in Springfield, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s an economic development strategy as much as it is a workforce development strategy,” Hobbs said. “We do not want to have a company that wants to expand, and we don’t have the workforce to meet their needs.”

The program includes a partnership between several organizations, including the Springfield City School District, Clark State Community College, Ohio Means Jobs of Clark County, the chamber of commerce and Opportunity for Individual Change of Clark County.

The next step is to recruit students and adults into the program, said Duane Hodge, director of workforce development at Clark State Community College. Potential recruits could come from a variety of sources, including adults who are looking for career training, and students who aren’t already in vocational programs, but are not planning to go to college.

The first phase of the program would last about six weeks and would provide basic manufacturing skills, including problem solving, shop safety, math and critical thinking skills. Students could also receive certifications from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

High school students would take courses at the Learning Cafe at the Springfield City School District, while adults would take classes at Clark State. If students want to seek additional skills, a second phase at OIC of Clark County would teach additional skills in precision machining.

The program will also give students an edge because employers will also know they have the basic job skills needed to succeed and advance at a company, Hodge said. In return, companies could be asked to pay the workers a little more than typical entry-level wages and designate a person to serve as a point of contact.

“It takes a collaboration in Clark County to do something like this,” Hodge said.

Despite high unemployment, finding workers with the right skills is often a challenge, said Jamie Callan, chief financial officer at Valco Industries. The company makes metal products for customers and provides services such as machining and stamping.

However, Callan said many potential workers aren’t aware of the opportunities in manufacturing when they enter the workforce.

“Right now, we’re struggling to find skilled welders,” Callan said.

Friday’s meeting was an important step to bring the community together to try to resolve the issue, said Marc Murray, vice president of Yamada, North America Inc. The South Charleston company is a parts supplier for the automotive industry.

Finding candidates who want to work in manufacturing is a challenge, even though high-paying jobs are available, Murray said.

“They just don’t understand the careers and opportunities in manufacturing,” he said.

Jeff Powell, director of training at McGregor Metalworking Companies, said the effort is as important to local workers as it is to manufacturers.

“We need to make a strong effort to turn jobs into careers for these people,” Powell said.

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