Clark County manufacturers work to fill jobs, attract students

Local schools and other organizations have created several new programs to draw students to careers in manufacturing in recent years, including a job fair for middle school students and a new manufacturing lab at Clark State that opened last fall.

But as area firms continue struggling to find workers, it will be up to those companies to make the industry attractive to area students again, said Don Clouser, a trustee with the Dayton Regional Manufacturer’s Association.

“What DRMA has realized, it doesn’t matter how great a program is if you don’t have people knocking at the door to get in,” Clouser said.

A recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute highlighted the challenge, estimating as many as 3.5 million jobs in the industry will need to be filled in the next decade. Of those, as many as 2 million are expected to go unfilled as older workers retire and there are too few skilled workers in the pipeline to take their place. The report cites several reasons for the gap, including younger workers with little interest in the field, and a lack of technical education programs in public schools.

Clark State Community College and the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center are among local schools and colleges that have taken steps to resolve the lack of training courses available, Clouser said.

Last fall Clark State opened a new manufacturing lab and classroom at its East Leffel Lane campus with the help of a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Clark State plans to maintain the program even after the grant expires, said Jo Alice Blondin, Clark State’s president. She estimated close to 60 students are now enrolled in manufacturing programs at Clark State.

Clark State has also created a separate, 10-week precision machining program for high school students and adults that has so far produced 12 graduates.

“This is really important to us and we want to make sure we’re taking care of our Clark County employers,” Blondin said.

The Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center has also been active in trying to encourage high school juniors and seniors to take a closer look at the industry, Superintendent Rick Smith said. Along with organizations like the Chamber of Greater Springfield, the CTC organized a job fair that has introduced students to manufacturing careers as early as 8th grade, he said.

The CTC is also developing a pilot program that would offer a certificate providing evidence to potential employers that students have the right training to move into a job. In return, employers would make a commitment to offer interviews to students who meet those qualifications.

Area colleges and schools have been flexible in working with local businesses, including offering courses tailored to a company’s needs, said Darlene Carpenter, a human resources manager at Cascade.

With new programs in place to train students, local companies need to do more to get prospective students into those programs and the workforce, Clouser said.

“We need to work collectively to make sure we’re all tied together,” Clouser said of business and area schools.

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