Stigma blamed for shortage of factory workers

By LOU WILIN
STAFF WRITER

The stigma of manufacturing jobs was blamed Thursday for a shortage of factory workers in the region.

“The heart of the whole problem is the stigma,” state Rep. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, said during a discussion by 40 manufacturing and government leaders and education administrators.

The need for parents, teachers and counselors to steer more kids into manufacturing careers dominated the discussion, which was sponsored and moderated by accounting firm Gilmore Jasion Mahler.

“We’ve got to figure out how to handle this with the parents of the children, grandparents, because the stigma is just killing us,” Reineke said.

“Fifty-seven percent of those that go to colleges don’t finish,” said Duane Jebbett, chief executive officer of Rowmark, a Findlay manufacturer. “Now, think about that, folks, and think about the opportunities.”

Or, missed opportunities.

Teachers, too, must be informed of the benefits of modern manufacturing jobs, said Pam Hamlin, supervisor of Millstream Career Center.

“These are the people that are really guiding these kids,” she said. “We have a lot of misperceptions, misconceptions about what is out there.”

Manufacturers for years have been complaining about a shortage of qualified workers. About 1,600 workers must be added to Hancock County’s workforce each year over the next few years to replace retiring baby boomers, Findlay-Hancock County economic development leaders have said.

The biggest shortages are truck drivers, applied engineering, and tool and die makers.

Yet for all the years-old talk about the problem, there still is little exchange between business and education leaders across the state.

“They’re not talking to each other. How do we get business leaders into the schools? How do we get educators in the workplace to see the jobs, the in-demand jobs and the skills?” said Ryan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. “So when they have those career-counseling conversations with students, they can better articulate what those are.”

Ultimately, the solution may have to come from the manufacturers themselves.

“The regional collaborates, the local collaborates that work well are business-led,” Burgess said. “They’re the ones who have to develop the future workforce.”

In Findlay, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has taken the initiative. It developed an applied manufacturing class offered at Millstream.

“It is to give (students) an understanding of manufacturing, prepare them for manufacturing, and hopefully we’ll go hire them,” said Richard Gobrecht, corporate manager of operational excellence for Cooper. “That’s our end goal is that we can hire kids right out of high school.”

Wilin: 419-427-8413
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