Clark County needs skilled workers to fill job openings

Good-paying jobs are available in Clark County, but several employers say it’s a challenge to find the skilled workers to fill them.

Springfield trails the national average in educational attainment but the region has worked hard to close that gap, according to a recent report by the Dayton Development Coalition. Increasingly local economic development officials and schools are reaching out to students as early as middle school to show what kinds of jobs are available locally.

Several companies have said they could grow, but first need more workers in fields like truck driving, manufacturing and sales.

Some employers have been forced to provide more training in-house or be more lenient regarding an employee’s qualifications, said Lehan Peters, deputy director of OhioMeansJobs of Clark County.

“I’ve talked to several employers who have said, ‘I can’t find someone who has these particular skills,’ so what they’re doing is either hiring someone straight out of college who they can mold and groom and provide on-the-job training, or they’re just looking for individuals who have worked in that field but may not have all the credentials or certificates or the education level,” Peters said.

The Springfield News-Sun asked local economic development leaders what are higher-paying jobs in demand now and what local workers need to do to get those positions.

The county has a long history in manufacturing and with companies like Navistar, HDI Landing Gear USA and McGregor Metalworking Companies, that won’t likely change soon, according to local officials.

But the area has also had some success attracting jobs that support the insurance industry, including companies like Assurant. And the region has a strong core of food production firms like Woeber’s Mustard and Reiter Dairy in Springfield, as well as Robert Rothschild Farms in Champaign County.

Truck driving:

Why it’s needed: Several area companies are in need of qualified drivers, and it has been in high demand since the industry has begun to recover from the Great Recession, said Lehan Peters, deputy director of OhioMeansJobs Clark County.

“During the recession, things really slowed down and a lot of trucking companies unfortunately went out of business because they didn’t have freight to haul,” said Tom Hicswa, Commercial Driver’s License director for Clark State Community College. Many experienced drivers also left the industry then. As the economy has recovered, few candidates are available to replace them. Adding to that, many baby boomers are preparing to retire, Hicswa said.

Qualified drivers are difficult to find, and a significant need exists locally, said Dale Briggs, vice president of Imperial Express Inc. in Springfield. The company ships automotive parts for companies like Navistar in Ohio and across the Midwest.

“Our key component is finding good drivers,” Briggs said. “Then we could add equipment. If I could find 10 good drivers, I could find the work for them.”

Wages: Pay varies, but local drivers can earn between $13.45 and $17.42 per hour, according to a 2013 Clark County Wage and Benefit Survey. On the road drivers who travel longer routes can earn an average of $25 per hour, according to the study.

Training: Short-term on the job training, often including completion of a commercial truck driver’s program is typically required, according to OhioMeansJobs. Some companies also require at least one year experience, Briggs said. Clark State offers a five-week Commercial Driver’s License program, as well as a two-week course for vehicles like trash and dump trucks. New classes start once a month.

Manufacturing, skilled trades:

Why it’s needed: Clark and Champaign counties have a long history in manufacturing, and companies like KTH Parts Industries Inc., Parker Trutec and McGregor have grown recently as the auto industry has recovered from the Great Recession. Clark State recently received a $2.5 million grant to develop certificate programs to train workers in key manufacturing areas, starting in the fall. And Honda announced last week it will invest $1 million in a workforce development program to address a projected skills gap in the industry. It pointed to a recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute that showed as many as 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will be needed in the next decade, and many will go unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers.

“We will continue to see an upward swing in manufacturing for our region,” said Amy Donahoe, director of hiring and employer services for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. “We will continue to lose employees in the areas of skilled trade through retirement.”

Some of those positions include:

• Welding

Wages: Pay ranges from about $13.77 to $21.17 an hour locally, according to the Clark County Wage and Benefit study.

Training: Certification and some experience is typically required. Some companies are seeking candidates with at least two years experience, but many firms will hire at the low end of the pay scale for recent trainees.

CNC Operator

Wages: Pay ranges locally from $13.79 to $18.17 per hour.

Training: On-the-job training, and often a two-year technical degree and certifications in the field are required, according to information from the chamber. Local officials believe jobs in this area will be in high demand as much of the current workforce is nearing retirement age.

Maintenance

Wages: Pay ranges from $12.58 to $18.32 per hour for technicians, and $21.53 to $32.44 per hour for supervisors locally.

Training: At least a tw0-year degree or certifications are needed, according to information from the chamber. This area is considered in high demand for local manufacturing firms.

• Quality Control Manager

Wages: $26.32 to $40.31 per hour, according to the county’s wage and benefit study.

Training required: Entry-level positions typically require a two-year technical degree and/or certifications from a community college, and general manufacturing experience is often required. Four to six years in quality control would allow most employees to be in a managerial role in this field, according to the chamber.

Sales:

Why it’s needed: In Clark County, several manufacturing firms in particular have had openings in their sales department recently, Donahoe said. The job typically demands dedication and time commitment, she said, as well as knowledge of the business. Sweet Manufacturing in Springfield is currently fully staffed, but employs sales workers both domestically and internationally, said Mike Gannon, a spokesman for the company. “At the end of the day, all of it is focused on serving our customers, whether they’re domestic-based or international-based,” he said.

Job duties can vary, from interacting with customers over the phone or email, to developing quotes for projects and following up with customers to make sure they are satisfied after the transaction. It can also include arranging delivery dates and providing troubleshooting assistance, or even providing replacement parts decades after a sale. “Any time you hire salespeople, you want to make sure they’ve got the technical knowledge but also the personality and the capability to sell,” Gannon said.

Wages: Inside sales range from $15.45 to $20.36 per hour, while outside sales can range from $22.66 to $42.29 per hour, according to the 2013 Clark County Wage and Benefit Study.

Training required: Some training is preferred, but can also be a position based on promotion and a well-rounded knowledge of the business or product being represented, Donahoe said. Customer service and a technical background is often required for higher-paying opportunities.

Customer Service/Call Center:

Why it’s needed: A recent report from the Dayton Development Coalition showed growth has occurred in the insurance industry with companies like Assurant and Code Blue. In the future, additional local growth is projected at a rate greater than the national average. Many of the positions at those firms are support positions to assist customers. In Clark County the Red Roof Inn has also been hiring agents who help customers make and cancel reservations, and answer questions about rooms and rates. The agents answer calls for Red Roof’s locations nationwide. The Red Roof Inn Contact Center in Springfield currently has 70 openings, and other companies, including Speedway, are also seeking customer support positions as that company has expanded, Donahoe said.

Wages: Clerks earn between $11.69 to $17.01 per hour, according to the 2013 Clark County Wage and Benefit Study. Supervisors typically earn between $23.31 and $34.54 per hour.

Training required: A background in retail is often acceptable for entry-level opportunities in the field, Donahoe said. Basic computer knowledge and a pleasant personality are also important. Employees must be able to deal with challenging situations while remaining calm.

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