Of course information technology, truck driving and health care are at the top of the list, but I increasingly point to an old staple for the US economy: manufacturing.
Manufacturing is not viewed as a high-growth industry, but skilled manufacturing workers are in great demand for two reasons: young people seeking to enter the workforce are not prone to choose the manufacturing industry, and veteran employees who are near retirement age are neither inclined, nor motivated, to gain new skills through long-term or in-depth training.
This means opportunity. The fact that Hamilton County’s unemployment rate has fallen from 11 percent in 2010 to 4.7 percent in August of 2017 has only increased that opportunity. Right now, highly-skilled manufacturing workers who get laid off typically are able to walk from one employer to the other without the need for third-party intervention or new training. In July of 2017, we were awarded a federal grant of $150,000 to assist workers laid off in manufacturing staff reductions. So far, we are finding very little demand for these dollars.
Manufacturing employers are highly motivated to capture recently laid-off, experienced employees. They not only have the skills, but they have demonstrated work habits that are highly desirable. So, it is unnecessary for those laid-off workers to seek additional training. Employers are scooping them up as soon as they fill out an application.
Changes in unemployment compensation also have impacted the number of people willing to seek new training in the manufacturing field. Unemployment benefits in Ohio are currently capped at 26 weeks and could drop to 20. That discourages long-term training that can’t be completed in that time frame – getting a paying job before unemployment runs out is more important. Manufacturing certification training programs are time consuming and not widely available.
But, for those who can, the need makes the investment worth it – now and in the future. In the coming decade Ohio will have fewer people in the workforce. But the number of jobs continues to grow – from 5.6 million to an estimated 5.9 million by 2024. Most of that growth will be in low-wage jobs in the service industry that require no education beyond high-school. However, there is substantial growth and opportunity in occupations that require a relatively brief training and certification after high-school. Bachelor degree occupations remain credible, but increasingly focus on technical and management skills.
Our OhioMeansJobs Center spends nearly $3 million annually helping local residents with job training and other skills, while also assisting local employers in finding the skilled workers they need. For more information on a career in manufacturing or another field, please visit https://www.omj-cinham.org/.