June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Medina County launches jobs program

Medina County Workforce Devel­opment Director Bill Hanigan said one local company recently had 30 applicants for an open position. The company interviewed nine and hired three, but only one employee remained after a few months.

“That’s a lot of effort when you look at the time and energy to go through just to find one employee,” Hanigan said.

The new Manufacturing Training Consortium aims to link trained workers with local manufacturers, making the firms’ hiring process and the workers’ job hunts easier. It also will provide educational opportuni­ties for workers who don’t quite have the skills needed for jobs at the com­panies.

“We will have workers that meet certain skill-set standards that most other states can’t brag about,” Hani­gan said. He and others plan to roll out the program over the next several months.

The Manufacturer Training Con­sortium stemmed from the city of Medina’s strategic plan for economic development. Tom Krueger, the city’s economic development director, said he wanted to see a program that trained workers and linked them with local employers.

“If we have good workers in Med­ina and there’s not a career path for them, … they’re going to go to Cuya­hoga County and Summit. The community’s going to lose them,” he said.

The Medina County Univer­sity Center, Medina County Career Center and Medina County Workforce Develop­ment joined Krueger to look at training issues. They assem­bled a group of 25 manufactur­ers from throughout the county and surveyed them on what skills they want to see in workers.

Hanigan explained the con­sortium hopes to pinpoint cer­tain skills that entry-level workers at manufacturers may need.

“In many cases, what you’ll find … is you’ll have a core set of skills that 95 percent or so of all manufacturers have the same core that they need,” he said.

They will devise an assess­ment tool for workers. Hani­gan said it will show whether workers have the “soft skills” needed for the local manufac­turing field. This includes team-working abilities, some basic academic knowledge such as math and problem solving, and personality aspects like reliability and integrity.

“The key here is developing a mechanism that manufac­turers will be able to rely on to provide them consistency,” he said.

If the assessment receives approval from the local manufacturers, it will be used for current workers and those searching for jobs.

Any prospective employees that meet all the requirements will be assigned to the “appli­cant pool.” These are workers that have the skills necessary for entry-level positions.

Projections show that par­ticipating manufacturers plan to have at least 200 entry-level, operator and clerical positions in the next year. These employ­ers can look to the applicant pool when they begin to fill these positions, Hanigan explained.

And that pool will only grow, he said, since the initiative includes training. The Univer­sity Center and the Career Center will develop a set of classes that will address all the manufacturing skills.

“It’s going to be multiple programs. Based on their assessment results, different individuals would have differ­ent training,” said Jim Boyes, director of the University Cen­ter who has helped develop the program.

Once the workers pass the assessment, they’ll receive a certification that Hanigan hopes will be recognized by local employers. He said more courses and skills can be added to the program as time goes on.

“This is only what I would consider phase one of an over­all program that eventually will include higher skill sets where people can eventually receive training for higher up in the company,” he said, not­ing the courses also could count toward college credit.

Hanigan said he hopes at least the first phase of this pro­gram won’t cost anything to the manufacturers or appli­cants. They’ve already received a state grant to cover a part of the costs to develop the pro­gram and hope to receive an additional one soon to pick up the rest.

Once the program’s up and running, Hanigan said he hopes to use the job training dollars his office receives from the government every year to keep the program going.

“At the end of the day, this has to be a self-sustaining pro­gram, and the way we’re put­ting it together I hope it to be so,” he said.

Officials are still looking for local companies to be part of the Manufacturing Training Consortium. Those interested in joining should called Boyes at the University Center, (330) 721-2210, or Hanigan at Work­force Development, (330) 723-9675.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.