Valley Manufacturers Coalition Gets $250K Grant

CANFIELD, Ohio -- Members of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition Friday learned their organization is one of six groups in Ohio to receive an operating grant from the Industry Workforce Alliance pilot program.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and the Governor’s Office of Workplace Transformation funded the coalition’s $250,000 grant, announced Jessica Borza, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition. MVMC is the only group in the 16-county Jobs Ohio region that covers northeast Ohio to receive funding from the pilot program, she noted.

“What this means is we are essentially serving as the pilot for the state to demonstrate the success of sector partnerships,” Borza said. “Our mission continues to be to highlight the need for additional skilled workers in manufacturing. We continue to promote that and recruit individuals into those jobs with a focus on machining and the entry-level career pathways.”

The grant will supplement Oh-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative's current Workforce Innovation Fund grant, which is entering its final year. The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is part of the collaborative.

“This grant will go a year beyond our current grant to help sustain some of those activities that we feel are really important,” Borza said.

During the meeting, held at the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center, Eric Karmecy, project manager for Oh-Penn's Pathways to Competitiveness Project, provided an update on efforts to work with colleges and technical schools to ensure students are prepared to enter the workforce.

“Representatives of machining training programs are meeting with employers who have expressed the need to hire quality machinists or are maybe having trouble finding qualified machinists,” Karmecy said. “They're meeting to discuss curriculum improvements, and potential incorporation of NIMS [National Institute of Metalworking Skills] certifications so that graduates are more prepared for entry-level machining jobs.”

This summer, the Oh-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative placed 22 high school students and 41 college students in manufacturing internships, Matt Joing from Butech Bliss, Salem, said at the meeting. Nearly all wages paid the students are covered by grants, he noted.

“Through this grant, we were able to hire for paid internships,” Joing said. “There's a lot of collaboration for paid internships between students and the company. We want to make sure that students have a place to go back to after their internship.”

Also at the meeting, Mary Ann Kochalko, chief operations officer for Mahoning and Columbiana counties’ Ohio Means Jobs office, told how employers could help students find a career through her agency.

“The state has put a big emphasis on the in-demand occupation list. For anyone thinking of tuition assistance, they defer to that list to make sure they can get funding,” Kochalko said. “Prospective students are looking at that when they consider a career or occupation. That information arrives from the Ohio Means Jobs job postings.”

The manufacturers coalition also began planning this morning for educational events in conjunction with Ohio's Manufacturing Month in October. John Burr, from BOC Water Hydraulics, Salem, said the group is looking for about 20 manufacturers to volunteer.

“We've done something similar to this in the past and any time we can have young people [in the plants], that's what pipeline development is about,” Burr said. “We have to let them know that there are manufacturing jobs and that they're cool jobs to have.”

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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