Honda invests $1M in workforce development

Honda will spend $1 million on a new workforce development program to address a projected skills gap among local workers.

The automaker has become increasingly concerned about its workforce as older employees retire and community colleges have told the company it might be difficult to replace them, said Scot McLemore, manager of technical workforce development at Honda.

“The skill set for manufactured products has really changed over the last 10 years,” he said.

Honda employs more than 13,000 Ohioans, including more than 1,400 residents from Clark and Champaign counties.

The new program, named EPIC, will provide scholarships at area community colleges, pay for mobile manufacturing laboratories and develop a new work-study pilot program. It is designed to reach workers as early as middle school and up through current employees looking to improve their skills, McLemore said.

A recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute showed as many as 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will be needed in the next decade. As much as 60 percent of them might be left vacant due to a lack of interest and skilled workers.

Honda’s new program will include:

• 12 $2,500 scholarships for students seeking an associate degree in manufacturing or mechanical engineering technology at local community colleges, including Clark State, Sinclair and Edison community colleges.

• A work-study pilot program with Columbus State Community College that will allow students to work at Honda three days a week while taking classes. The program will allow students to graduate debt-free, according to company officials.

• New week-long summer STEM “Techie” camps that will involve middle school students in activities like computer programming, and web and app development.

• Honda will nominate five schools in Union, Logan and Shelby counties where it will fund advanced curriculum and support STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — activities

• The company is working with businesses and schools to fund six mobile manufacturing labs. Honda also worked with Edheads, a game developer in Hilliard, Ohio, to develop a manufacturing video game for classroom use.

• The automaker will provide support for the Marysville Early College STEM High School, a partnership with several entities in which Honda will help the school select lab equipment, lay out space and select an instructor to develop career paths for manufacturing students.

Cars and trucks are more technically complicated than ever before, with advances in fields like powertrain technology and advanced materials, said Rick Schostek, executive vice president at Honda North America.

“It all evolves at a very rapid pace,” Schostek said. “We’re looking to a future where all of these things converge at a high level none of us can imagine today.”

Honda is investing millions of dollars in the state, including $340 million at its engine facility in Anna, Ohio, an $85 million investment in its East Liberty manufacturing facility, a roughly $70 million investment to build its NSX super car in Ohio and a recent $35 million investment at its Marysville campus for a Honda Heritage Center building. That building includes a Technical Development Center that provides training for Honda engineers, equipment service technicians and production workers.

The company also spends as much as $10 billion a year purchasing auto parts from suppliers in the state, Schostek said.

Over the past two decades, many educational institutions shifted away from manufacturing and toward other careers, said Amit Singh, vice president of academic affairs at Clark State. But now government, businesses and colleges are increasingly working together to train workers as manufacturing has become more high-tech, he said.

Earlier this month, Clark State announced it will use a $2.5 million federal grant to buy equipment and develop certificate programs in fields like welding, CNC operations and industrial maintenance.

“They’re stepping up to the plate, we’re stepping up to the plate and that’s what we need,” Singh said of companies like Honda.

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