There's such a demand in labor that manufacturers are struggling to find skilled, local workers

Posted at 8:54 AM, Aug 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-31 08:54:52-04

Labor Day weekend is about recognizing the social and economic contributions of our nation's workforce. Here in Northeast Ohio, it's a workforce that has grown in the past year in five of the eight economic sectors tracked by the Federal Reserve with manufacturing being one of them.

Northeast Ohio is a region built on manufacturing, steel, automotive foremost among others. It was a job that many aspired to have because of the stable life it provided, but for many modern manufacturers, the ability to find stability in a workforce today isn't easy.

"The biggest challenge is getting people because we have such a demand right now," said Jack Schron, President of Jergens Manufacturing in Cleveland, one of the world's largest manufacturers of tooling components.

"The United States is coming back strong, we're making stuff, exporting it all over the world but finding skilled quality talent? I mean right now I think we have 8 or 9 job openings just right now on the floor," Schron said.

Schron's benefits from the company's Cleveland location, with roughly 25 percent of his workforce living within five miles of the plant built on the brownfield that was the old Collinwood rail yard.

"You've got people who are going to Case Western Reserve who are part of the engineering team, you've got people going to Tri-C part of the workforce team and you've got people that are coming right from high school. It's all blended together as one team," he said.

The inability to fill certain jobs is nothing new in the state. When the fracking industry sprouted up nearly a decade ago there were parts of Ohio where hotel rooms were tough to come by, filled with workers brought in to fill jobs that locals weren't qualified for in the field.  It was something the Kasich administration worked with the energy companies about addressing.

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) believes the move away from vocational education in our schools is part of the reason.

"I am such a big believer about getting vo-tech education back into the high school making sure people understand there are opportunities to get out of high school with a good paying job," Renacci said.

"You can to college you can get a degree you're competing with thousands of people, you'll start at $25,000 or $30,000 or you can get a skill set, you can be a mechanic at $51,000 you can be a welder at $65,000. There are so many jobs out there and by the way no college debt."

Back at Jergens, the ability to go to college on the company's dime is one of the enticements they use to lure and keep employees Schron said.

"These are great jobs where you have to use your brains and your hands to make a living and it really is the future."