Manufacturing has changed significantly from the glory days of the Steel Valley. The job losses in the Greater Oh-Penn Region are well documented, but what is often not described is the new form of advanced manufacturing that has emerged over the last 10 years.

The New Manufacturer

The dirty and grimy manufacturing factories of the 20th Century, reliant on unskilled workers completing labor-intensive tasks, have been replaced by innovative, lean and flexible facilities using computers, information and high precision technologies operated by a skilled workforce.

There is a high unemployment rate in the Greater Oh-Penn Region, but a skills mismatch impedes individuals from transitioning into available positions in manufacturing. Without the growth of a qualified skilled workforce in the region, the local economy is at risk of declining even further.

The Manufacturing Institute notes that modern manufacturing “requires a technical workforce with math and science skills [and] production workers with increased numeracy, team building, and problem-solving abilities.”

An Economic Force

The Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network was formed in 2015 and spans across 14 counties. These counties include Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Portage, Geauga and Ashtabula in Ohio, as well as Mercer, Lawrence, Erie, Crawford, Venango, Clarion, Warren, and Forest in Pennsylvania.

The 5 sector partnerships associated with these counties are Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, Erie Regional Manufacturer Partnership, Advanced Materials and Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership of Lawrence & Mercer Counties (PA), Advanced Materials and Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership in Northwest PA, and the Portage County Manufacturers Coalition.

The region has 2,833 manufacturing openings annually, and more than 6,686 adults over age 55 will retire from the industry within the next 10 years. With only 586 program completions regionally in manufacturing related fields through the fourth quarter of 2014, more skilled workers will be needed to bridge the gap.

Regional manufacturers identified Machinists, including Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators (CNC) and Advanced Machinists, as the most critical skill shortage.[1] Notably, Machinists between the ages of 45 and 65+ make up 60 percent of the regional labor force. Labor market information indicates Machinists have the highest job posting intensity for all companies and occupations within the region, which demonstrates companies may try harder to fill this position than others.[2] High demand requires pipeline development for key knowledge areas in precision parts and instruments, metal properties, mechanical knowledge, and mathematics.

[1] Oh-Penn Machining Career Pathways Report 2015

[2] EMSI, 2015

The Bottom Line

Manufacturing still matters. Companies in our region are ready and waiting to hire qualified workers with the skills and knowledge to compete in the new state of manufacturing.