civic engagement

  • Manufacturing Jobs Go Unfilled


    We’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about the schizophrenic job market in Northeast Ohio. Unemployment is above the national average and incomes are below the norm. Yet, thousands of jobs are available, including many in the manufacturing sector. One only has to read the newspaper to know manufacturing operations are continuing to close. So how can it be that manufacturers can’t find workers?

    The Associated Press takes a look at that issue with a story that’s being published around the country and its focused on Northeast Ohio. You can read the whole story here.

    Here are the first few graphs:

    CLEVELAND – Michael Starr was laid off in mid-career from his factory job and found himself back in the classroom to upgrade his skills – for a new high-tech manufacturing environment struggling to find workers.

    Working in industry today “is not like the old days: get a hammer and fix it,” the 45-year-old said.

    Starr was laid off Jan. 15 from his sheet-metal working job in suburban Medina. He has enrolled in a Lorain County Community College program to take courses in computers, math, machining, industrial blueprint reading, advanced computerized numerical controlled milling and job-search and study skills.

    When he showed up in class, “I was terrified, (like) training an old dog new tricks,” he said.

    The nation has shed 5 million manufacturing jobs in three decades, but higher-skill factory jobs like Starr’s goal increasingly go unfilled as employers deal with applicants with poor reading and math abilities and a bad attitude about blue-collar work.

    The National Association of Manufacturers says the skill shortages have hurt production and the ability to meet customer demands.

    And the pattern is likely to persist as the nation sheds old-style manufacturing to compete in a global economy.

    The story also highlights MAGNET, which has a new campaign called Dream It! Do It! to attract more people into the manufacturing arena. Also, a consortium of health care systems trying to address the shortage in medical workers is exploring how to help laid-off Ford workers to transition into the health care industry.

    What do you think we should be doing to help incumbent workers keep their present jobs or develop the skills for the jobs of tomorrow?

    Bookmark/Search this post with:


    # Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 09:51.

    Schools have always been used to fill job needs. Max Hayes is doing work with WIRE NET to help fill some of these jobs. But why not have a school that specifically targets, for the general school population, the courses needed to fill these jobs? Manufacturing companies in dire need of these skilled workers could become active in this school’s community. I love the WIRE NET program but it does seem as if more students could take advantage of the jobs if more students were educated accordingly.

    # Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 11:07.

    What should we be doing to advance the skills of NE Ohio? How about getting active in programs like those at Max Hayes and other area schools? Last weekend, over 2000 people — families, students, car fanatics and others — came to gether at the first Shoreway Classic and Career Opportunities Showcase at Max Hayes HS. Max Hayes is the only Cleveland school teaching technical skills like machining, Computer Aided Design, Welding, Auto Body and Auto Tech. WIRE-Net and DA MotorSports organized the Showcase to merge the interests of NE Ohio car buffs with interested parents and students. We were glad to have Magnet and Dream It Do It involved…but we need more support!

    See our website at for more information.

    # Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 15:40.

    Two generations ago, the American middle class was fed a fairy tale that most bought hook, line and sinker. “Get an education, go to work, pay your taxes, play by the rules and you will have a job for life.” The reality now is that many multi national corporations have the ability to pull workers from anywhere on the globe, for pennies on the dollar.Couple this new reality with the current imbalance of trade and federal government budget deficits, those with a job are forced to worker longer hours with higher costs of living for incremental wage increases.

    Now that the genie is out of the bottle, labor and white collar workers must embark on a life long path of learning new skills and keeping abreast in the latest technology. Unless the middle class can breathe and stop long enough to assess their current environment and quickly adapt to the changes of that environment, the U.S. will be a unwilling participate in a third world caste system.

    # Submitted by ARSWORLDWIDE on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 21:17.

    The first question coming to my mind is, what are the jobs of tomorrow and who will be learning these skills? Are current workers looking to develop the new skills. Employers with incentive to encourage their workforce to develop the skills now, appears to be a viable approach. Everything has vocabulary, and progressive steps. By introducing both to the current workforce, before a job loss or plant closing gives the worker a leg up. Pair at work learning with community based education where the worker can opt to take time for traditional training courses away from the job, or at the employers’ location, versus a pay raise. No pay raise, then a reduction in pay, to accommondate time away from job duties for skills training. Mirror training with personal discipline habits of a personal budget, investment skills, and savings/retirement goals. Develping skills for tomorrow is developing a new mindset.

    # Submitted by Anonymous on Sat, 05/26/2007 – 07:13.

    The North East Ohio manufacturing CEO’s complained, “It is getting more and more difficult to find folks with the skill levels we desire.”

    So, the manufacturing community, in its desperation for skilled workers, turned to the education community and the non-profits to solve the problem.
    Happily, career and tech educators redesigned programs and wrote new curriculum to teach the skills that manufacturers said they needed, but soon complained not enough students signed up for the classes.
    The non-profits, knowing that problems present opportunities to garner more grant money, created boards, had meetings, held forums, wrote action plans, sponsored luncheons, gave each other awards, and hired marketing firms.
    The marketing firms, relied upon conventional wisdom, and came up with the strategy: Cool sells. Make manufacturing look like a cool career choice.

    Recruiting efforts were aimed at children in grade school: “Look at this robot…isn’t manufacturing cool? …Go to a career tech school. You can learn to build robots and make lots of money.”
    The kids thought, “That’s nice, but I’m gonna play for the NBA, then I’ll be a rap star, then I’ll go to Hollywood.”

    Numbers in the high school and community college manufacturing programs continued to decline. More and more money was being pumped into the schools yet the trickle of young people seeking jobs in manufacturing was slowing to a drip.
    Manufacturers began to panic; the worker deficit was in a rapid decline as baby-boomers retired. Lobbyists got the state and federal governments to dedicate money for job training. Relying, once again, on conventional problem solving, manufacturing threw even more money at the non-profits.
    What did they get? Another ad campaign, a new slogan, and still no increase in skilled employees.
    The bumper-sticker definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same thing and expect different results.
    Why does the manufacturing community keep looking to the non-profit community to solve its difficulties? The non-profits are in the business of keeping themselves busy, and finding money to pay their salaries. The manufacturing industry needs to look inside its own walls for the answers.

    Every good plant manager knows that the answers to a company’s problems are found on the factory floor.

    Identify your best employees. Talk to them. Why did they come to your company? Where were they trained? How old were they when they made the choice to work in manufacturing? Why did they choose to work in manufacturing? What other jobs did they have?
    Would the most popular responses be: “When I was a kid in junior high, I decided I wanted to work in a factory”, or “Factory jobs are cool, they have always been my dream.”?
    A more typical response will be, “After I had a couple of kids, I needed a job with decent wages, regular hours and health care.”

    Exit questionnaires are also very informative.
    Ask the technical schools how many students are enrolled in their manufacturing programs, and then check to see how many are actually working in manufacturing a year or two after graduating. Talk to the students who AREN’T working in the industry. Why did they quit the program? Why aren’t they working for a manufacturer? Wasn’t this a really “cool” job?

    It is time for a reality check.

    Entry level factory jobs aren’t all that cool. The high school basketball player isn’t dreaming of pressing buttons on a CNC machine in an Eastlake job shop. But the twenty five year old single mother might be, or the store clerks with bachelors’ degrees, college loans, car-loans, and mortgages, or the father of three who just got out of the half-way house after serving 14 months for selling marijuana.

    Manufacturing jobs are good jobs, but they aren’t all that “sexy”. If the industry can’t find recruits amongst the 18-21 year-olds coming out of high schools and community colleges, perhaps it is time to look at a different, more mature demographic.
    Who are the people looking for good jobs with regular hours and good benefits?
    Young parents, struggling college grads, new immigrants, and ex-offenders trying to get back on track,

    Instead of wasting money at the front end of the problem, on ineffective feel-good recruiting campaigns, which end up promoting schools, but do very little to ease the worker shortage in the manufacturing industry, wouldn’t it make more sense to offer student loan-forgiveness for people who successfully complete manufacturing skills training classes and enter the workforce, to provide more substantial scholarships to high school graduates pursuing degrees in manufacturing related fields, and to support the Second Chance Act and ex-offender reentry job training?

    # Submitted by cthompson on Sat, 05/26/2007 – 11:04.

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments and the comments of others who are joining the Advance Northeast Ohio community.

    I think MAGNET’s Dream It Do It campaign is also targeting adults, not just high school students. You can learn more about their program here.

Author: advance759