The Appalachian Ohio Manufacturers’ Coalition
The Appalachian Ohio Manufacturers’ Coalition (AOMC), a southeast Ohio regional manufacturing sector partnership, set a primary goal of building a comprehensive directory of manufacturing companies in order to identify and understand critical manufacturing competency demands supporting sustainability and growth of manufacturing. Believing that strong competencies support all levels of career successes in manufacturing…obtaining factual data supporting their regional needs was key in making data-driving decisions. This consolidated data would express with “one-voice” the gaps in training infrastructure, regional data mapping voids, needed collaboration…and allow planning regarding where the highest impact toward the future workforce pipeline development can occur.
Research was completed into the region’s labor market and manufacturing base. A directory of manufacturing companies and contacts was created and an overview of the region’s labor market was developed. The labor market and regional manufacturing data was used to inform drafting of a survey. AOMC reviewed the survey and provided feedback to better tailor this unique competency-needs-based survey to achieve desired outcomes. The survey was administered in conjunction with company interviews to drive survey completion. Key insights were obtained regarding current and on-coming manufacturing workforce challenges.
The survey was administered to 125 companies and 58 responses were received. A Survey Report was created and disseminated. The AOMC region now has a manufacturing directory of interested partners that are willing to share information at a regional level. AOMC also has relevant, objective, timely, and accurate labor market information. The survey also determined and quantified key manufacturer needs and priorities. And, a basis has been provided to strengthen career pathways and guide skill attainment with education and training providers for manufacturing job preparation, economic opportunity, and industry sustainability and growth.
“Identifying the demand job competencies/skills, rather than the number of specific jobs expected to be added, is key in workforce pipeline development. Typical job demand surveys seek information related to the number of expected entry hires and does not consider the high forecast for experienced replacement workers that is facing all manufacturers. Competency demands increase greatly at various career levels, with a higher expectation of job-ready performance (competencies). Simultaneously, the demand for advanced manufacturing efficiencies increases competency demands across all careers. There continues to be a competency attainment/measurement gap through training and education entities. Identifying competency attainment through quality assessment systems will greatly strengthen successful workforce on-boarding opportunities. Moving to a competency-demand survey removes all the vague job classifications and brings the core work performance and abilities back to the key focus.”
—Solvay Specialty Polymers, Marietta, OH
The Flex Factor Success Story
The Southeast Ohio region makes up almost one-third of Ohio’s land mass and has a population of over 1 million people spread over 25 counties. The Southeast Ohio region is a manufacturing hub. Companies and work force in the region have concentrations in metals, polymers and petrochemicals, hardwood products, food processing, heavy truck assembly, auto components, energy production, logistics and back-office operations. The region’s six varied industry sectors produce raw materials, root materials, supply chain components and finished consumer products for more than 30 Fortune 500 companies and international businesses from 21 countries. Yet, the Southeast Ohio region lacked a comprehensive manufacturing career awareness program.
Various manufacturing career awareness programs and models were researched from across the country. An asset map of the region was completed to document current programming and to evaluate potential partners in manufacturing career awareness program. A needs assessment was conducted with community colleges, secondary school districts, community partners, and employers to determine interest in implementing a program. The NextFlex FlexFactor and Flex2Future programs were selected as being the best fit for the region.
Along with Southeast Ohio Tech Prep, we engaged Lorain County Community College to bring more than $420,000 in federal grant funding to the region to support FlexFactor program license, training and implementation costs. The Southeast Ohio Tech Prep Center was secured as an implementation and delivery partner for the FlexFactor and program. FlexFactor has launched throughout Southeast Ohio in partnership with 7 community colleges, 23 employers, 11 community stakeholders, and 13 secondary school districts. At least 1,400 students will be served in the first two years of the program with a potential to impact 105 school districts and nearly 40,000 students over the life of the project.
“We have successfully leveraged FlexFactor to engage middle and high school students in exploring advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship throughout Appalachian Ohio. FlexFactor brings together the entire workforce ecosystem to expose students to career and educational pathways while teaching essential employability skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, and communication skills. FlexFactor supports Tech Prep as we prepare successful graduates for successful careers and learning opportunities that match their interests, skill sets, and needs of the community. We couldn’t be more pleased to offer this program throughout our region in partnership with D Byers & Associates, Lorain County Community College, and NextFlex.”
—Katie Good, Southeast Ohio Tech Prep Director