Business Resources: Workforce Support for Manufacturing Industry

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Manufacturing is a bedrock of the Northeast Ohio business community, but the industry is facing a workforce challenge. There are 2,600 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Cuyahoga County alone, and 30% of the workforce is nearing retirement age. 60% of manufacturing businesses say that the inability to fill open roles holds back their growth and expansion.

In response to this challenge, manufacturers, educators, and service providers are collaborating to drive change for the health of the manufacturing industry via Workforce Connect Manufacturing Sector Partnership. Initiated in 2019, Workforce Connect is led and propelled by over 20 manufacturing employers in Cuyahoga County. Facilitated by MAGNET and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the sector partnership strives to close the talent gap for manufacturing in Cuyahoga County through unique programmatic interventions and systems change initiatives. This sector partnership is unique in that the strategic vision is set by a collaboration of employers based on their current and future hiring needs, setting up an “employer-driven, system change” structure that will bring about sustainable, long-term results.

Workforce Connect Manufacturing Sector Partnership Corporate Partners

Workforce Connect Manufacturing uses three primary strategies to attract new talent:

  • Recruit existing training programs to 100% utilization that includes recruiting high school students and up-skilling existing employees.

  • Implement innovative on-ramps to career paths in manufacturing for under-represented populations with a current focus on African Americans, women, and people re-entering the workforce from incarceration.

  • Build a "Voice of Northeast Ohio Manufacturing" for advocacy to drive policies and support for manufacturing.

While some of the initiatives to implement these strategies have been delayed in 2020 due to COVID-19, the partnership launched its “ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers” pilot to help train and support individuals previously involved in the criminal justice system. Towards Employment, a local workforce development organization, and Precision Metalforming Association, took the lead to develop a specific curriculum to meet the manufacturer’s aggregated needs. A balance of work readiness training coupled with technical training in key manufacturing skills and concepts, the curriculum also incorporates hands-on engagement activities with the manufacturing employers to further build familiarity, skills, and competencies.

In collaboration with West Side Catholic Center, Towards Employment, El Barrio, Ohio Means Jobs, and the Greater Collinwood Development Corporation, the first cohort of ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers was recruited in March. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the stay-at-home order went into effect, aspects of the plan needed to pivot. Chromebooks and hotspots were purchased for each student, and the curriculum was modified to accommodate 80% of the learning remotely through video-conferencing and e-learning modules. Employers stepped up and quickly created videos of virtual plant tours so students could see what the inside of their plants looked like, what the manufacturing process consisted of, and could discover what types of jobs existed in those companies. For the remaining 20% in-person training, MAGNET constructed a specially designed classroom with plexiglass dividers, temperature checks, sanitation practices, etc. In addition to leveraging existing public funding sources primarily from OMJ C/CC, The Nordson Corporation Foundation, Precision Metalforming Association Educational Foundation, MAGNET, and the Greater Cleveland Partnership also contributed to the funding needed to execute this initial cohort.

ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers pilot program

The first cohort completed their certificate training in June, and the majority of the students in the original program have been placed in manufacturing jobs, while others continue to work on their skills readiness.

“Employers leading the strategy development and staying involved through implementation has been the catalyst of the Manufacturing Sector Partnership’s success,” according to Shana Marbury, GCP’s General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Talent. “What makes this work even more exciting,” she added, “is that it continues to attract new employer partners, which is helping us scale up and adapt more quickly.”
~ Shana Marbury
General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Talent - Greater Cleveland Partnership

For more information on Workforce Connect Manufacturing or to connect with a GCP Workforce specialist, please reach out to our INGEAR team.

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