As many high school graduates are taught that college equals success, skilled trades are often overlooked. At this time the demand for workers is much greater than the number of qualified applicants for manufacturing and other skilled trades.
And jobs in this field can be lucrative. Over the next 10 years, almost 50,000 manufacturing jobs will be available in Northeast Ohio alone.
Summit Workforce Solutions is helping to develop a local talent pool for area employers, creating real opportunities for high school graduates and other job seekers who pursue a skilled trade.
By working with high school educators and local colleges, Summit Workforce Solutions — which also owns the Ohio Means Jobs Center on Tallmadge Road — is helping to provide students with a solid comprehension in math, and individual on-the-job training upon which they can build careers as machinists, tool and die makers, CNC programmers and other high-demand occupations. The opportunities for these types of employees is increasing, which means not only will these jobs be available in the future but there are opportunities available for these careers now.
The agency’s Manufacturing Working Group recently led teachers and career counselors from the Akron Public Schools system on a tour of two local manufacturers: SSP Corp., and SGS Tool Co. SSP is a machine and assembly shop specializing in stainless steel and nickel-based fluid system components and assemblies. SGS Tool Co. manufactures precision carbide rotating tools for the metalworking industries.
Tool and die shops manufacture precision engineered products for customers that have very specific manufacturing applications, typically in volumes of one to 30 copies. Whereas, a machining facility uses one or more processes in order to mass produce many items, with volumes ranging from 20 to 2 million per year.
The program’s aim was to introduce educators to the idea that manufacturing jobs are a real and reliable employment alternative for their students.
Not the shops of yesterday
Businesses such as these have been innovating and evolving over the years to maintain their competitive edge. Many machine shops today are much cleaner and more technologically advanced than their predecessors, and as these companies advance, maintaining skilled workers to match this development has been a challenge.
It still takes the human touch for a business succeed. Workers with strong math, writing and verbal skills, with the desire to learn, contribute, and grow are the soul or backbone of an organization. Workers are needed in many disciplines such as maintenance, production, quality, sales, safety, human resources, engineering, logistics and finance.
Unfortunately, the focus of many high schools has been to prepare all students for a career path that begins with attending a four year college and earning a degree. Most manufacturing jobs only require a high school diploma or equivalent.
No one explained this disconnect between needs and wants as well as Donivan Lancer, a third-shift operator currently on the upward path to success at SSP Corp. He didn’t know what he wanted to do after high school, but he he knew that college wasn’t for him. He worked through a program similar to what Summit Workforce Solutions is implementing. He is now well on his way to earning his associate’s degree for Manufacturing/Engineering at Kent State with the blessing and financial backing of his employer.
When he was asked about which high school class or classes he had found most useful for his current career path, Lancer looked at the educators in front of him and smiled. “Wood Shop. It helped me discover that I prefer to work with my hands rather than do paperwork.”
Teaching the teachers about opportunities
By bringing teachers, counselors and school administrators onto factory floors, Summit Workforce Solutions helps them achieve a better understanding of what the students like Lancer and their potential employers need in regards to education. Exercises in listening, following directions and reading simple standard operating procedures helped to highlight the different ways people think and process instructions and information. It helped them to understand the true meaning of skills-based hiring.
This is how Daryl Revoldt, executive director of Workforce and Economic Development at Stark State College, explained it, “If we tell new teachers coming in about careers in manufacturing, then industry and education can meet. We can mold our students to fit those positions that they are interested in, so we can teach what the students need to know to work in a place like that.
“In Akron we are doing a lot of partnerships with industries in the business community, for each of our different career programs and our general education programs, so we can more meet what the manufacturing demand is in our area.”
He added, “Rather than seeing a kid come out of school with $40,000 in debt, where he has to pay that debt plus miss out on four years worth of work, he might be better off pursuing a career like this that doesn’t require the higher education. Then, if the employer wants him to get the higher education a lot of these employers will help the kid out by paying for that education.”
Alana Daveduk, operations manager for Summit Workforce Solutions, managed the event logistics and arranged for the bus tour to end in a quiet banquet room at the back Thirsty Dog Brewery for a quick debriefing, a tour of their operating facilities and a light dinner. She commented that “the tours received high praise and overall the participants were not surprised by the technology and how bright and sophisticated the manufacturing plants are; however, we’re very excited to learn that students with the basic skills taught in high school and the desire to continue learning can have the start of a great career for more of their students.”
Manufacturing has made tremendous progress during the past few decades. Newer facilities are state of the art, the interior noise level is no louder than a library, and the tedious tasks that were completed manually have been replaced by highly sophisticated machines with robots and computer calibrated gauges.
“I like this a lot. They opened my eyes. I thought a factory was a dirty place,” intimated Auto Body teacher Donny Rodgers. “I wasn’t expecting the opportunities they provide people. I thought you got here, hit a wall and that is as far as you can get, but they provide a lot of opportunities. You can make a really good living working there.” He noted that a lot of what he teaches is directly linked to jobs in manufacturing. “As far as some of the tools and measurements, there are a lot of different things that I can incorporate into teaching, that they could use when applying for a job (in manufacturing).”
Sue Lacy, president of Summit Workforce Solutions, addressed the whole group, thanking them for their participation. She reinforced that “we want this to be the start of a partnership with you as teachers, counselors and administrators to help engage and connect with students. We are totally committed to a cross-sector partnership, which helps spread the message throughout the community and schools. That message is manufacturing produces cool stuff here in Northeast Ohio. It’s fun to be a part of it. It’s rewarding at the end of the day to know we actually created, invented and helped to build the stuff that drives our economy. Students can have a career that pays well, and provides good benefits to support their families.”
Summit Workforce Solutions is located at 1040 E. Tallmadge Ave., in Akron, and is known as the OhioMeansJob Summit County center. For more info, contact Sue Lacy at (330) 630-9970 or via email at [email protected].
SSP is a machine and assembly shop specializes in stainless steel and nickel-based fluid system components and assemblies.
SGS Tool Co manufactures precision carbide rotating tools for the metalworking industries.
Akron Tool & Die Co Inc manufactures metal fabrication, extrusion dies and extrusion machinery.