Marion Technical College hosted a ribbon-cutting for a new mobile training lab at a joint business impact breakfast on Wednesday at the Honda Heritage Center in Marysville. More than 70 business leaders, education professionals and economic development officials from Logan, Union and Champaign counties attended the breakfast, which was coordinated with the first In-Demand Jobs Week authorized by the Ohio legislature.
The mobile lab is designed to hold 10-15 trainees, has an instructor station with an overhead projector and a production quality CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine at the back. According to Robert Haas, chief strategy officer of Marion Technical College, this will allow companies to train employees in their parking lots without the need to shut down one of their production lines.
“We listened to manufacturers, we surveyed manufacturers, and what we learned was that what manufacturers wanted in a mobile training lab was, to the degree possible, real production quality equipment,” Haas said. “So instead of trainers and simulators and things like that … we designed the lab to have a production quality machine.”
Although the mobile lab displays the logo of Marion Technical College, investment came from man entities, including local manufacturers, many of whom were at the breakfast.
Marcia Bailey, Champaign Economic Partnership director, said KTH Parts Industries Inc., Rittal North America and Bundy Baking Solutions were three Champaign County contributors. She said she was excited that 20-25 manufacturers in Champaign County will be able to schedule training for their employees in their own parking lots.
She noted this trailer was present at last week’s high school job fair at Triad High School and that raising awareness of manufacturing opportunities is an important role of the training lab.
Training workers for manufacturing jobs
The project that resulted in this mobile trailer, the eighth to operate in a nine-county area, began in the summer of 2013 and raised nearly $850,000, according to Eric Phillips, Marysville economic development director. At that time, a group of manufacturers and employment agencies came together with the governor’s office, the department of higher education and various economic development offices to discuss the loss of 400,000 manufacturing jobs in Ohio since 2000 due to foreign competition, company relocation and improvements in automation.
“In 2013 a group of manufacturers and career techs … came together and started talking about how we can fix this problem,” said Phillips. “The concept of a mobile lab was discussed at these meetings, and the importance of how successful they were in the state up north and in Wisconsin, and how could we replicate that program in our area.”
He said they looked at area technical colleges and manufacturing sectors.
“The ultimate goal was to create a mobile training lab equipped with real world equipment to provide training for incumbent workers, and there’s a couple paths we went with this,” he said. “We also wanted to market the coolness of manufacturing jobs to students and parents.”
Several Marysville middle school students attended the breakfast to learn about the availability of manufacturing jobs in this region. Phillips explained that workers are needed for coding and programming of robots, and that the average age of manufacturers in Ohio is 55, suggesting a need to increase the workforce.
According to Phillips, Ohio is third in the nation for size of the manufacturing workforce. He said manufacturing is the fourth largest employer in the country and that almost 13 percent of Ohio workers are in manufacturing. He added that wages have grown 22 percent since the Great Recession of 2008, and average wages are $59,000 per year, which exceeds the average of all other industries.
“There are opportunities for people in Ohio, in your region, in your towns and counties, that they may not be aware of, or they may not be aware that it pays well,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey. “We need everybody to meet that job demand need, everybody from our returning citizens from incarceration to our students who are with us today, to adults who maybe haven’t gotten their high school diploma yet but can get them. It’s really on an individual basis, one by one. It won’t be those big numbers that will win the battle of filling those in demand jobs.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304