ARCHBOLD — Gears turning in the minds of business leaders, economic development strategists and college administration brought together hundreds of local high school students on Friday to once again bring manufacturing to the forefront of their minds.
About 500 students from schools across the area met and interacted with representatives from 34 of the biggest company names in northwest Ohio’s manufacturing industry at Northwest State Community College in Archbold as part of Manufacturing Day 2019.
“It’s a celebration of manufacturing,” said NSCC Executive Director of Workforce Jim Drewes. “Because in the United States, what do we do? We make things.”
From Spangler Candy and CK Technologies, to Chase Brass and Campbell’s Soup, employers were on hand to recruit and inform in light of a continued perceived worker shortage across the Midwest, as the area collectively continues to de-emphasize a four-year college degree as students’ only option for success.
A dual Bryan and Four County Career Center student donned a virtual welding mask while a manufacturing leader looked on, carefully observing his prowess.
“You can learn techniques of welding off this system. It does several different types of welding. We focus on this, we use it as a training tool for new hires or individuals that haven’t welded before,” said Sabre FWT Production Manager Jason Dockery, representing one of several companies offering necessary training to “green” hires.
“The high school kids coming in, some of the younger students, it’s an opportunity to introduce them to it and the ones (who) are getting ready to graduate and don’t know what they’re going to do, it’s an opportunity to invite them over to talk to us and maybe give them a job.”
When finished with his demo, the student, mechanical systems and piping focused Raymond Briggs, explained his reasons for being excited about the event.
“It gives people a real opportunity to meet people they can’t meet generally,” he said. “It’s hard to get all these people to meet them whether for limitations via money, gas, transportation or opportunity.”
The event also drew in U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), who was on hand to highlight the importance of maintaining regional manufacturing’s future.
“I have 60,000 manufacturing jobs in my district. If it’s not the largest, it’s one of the largest in the state of Ohio,” said Latta. “... The No. 1 issue I hear from everybody across my area, across the state and the country, is we can’t find employees ... I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve been in where the people there say, ‘We’ve got contracts on the table we can’t accept because we don’t have the people to fulfill it. If we could do that, we could buy more machinery, expand the plant.’
“It comes down to one thing — we need more people. I think that northwest Ohio and Ohio as a whole is much further ahead than other parts of the country.”
Latta likes what he’s seeing so far.
“I think you’ve seen a great partnership between the companies, the schools, the guidance counselors, bringing in parents, bringing in students,” he said.
“What they’re doing here today with these 34 companies and 500 students is to show them what’s out there, that you can get a great job and a great career here in northwest Ohio.”