CLEVELAND — Talk to Northeast Ohio manufacturers about the biggest problem they face these days and they'll tell you it's the inability to find skilled workers. Seventy percent of them say their revenue is growing and 60% say that they would grow faster if they could hire more skilled workers. The problem is people for some reason don't think of manufacturing as a career option because surveys show 70% of Americans think that manufacturing is declining.
That's forced companies like Jergens Inc. in Cleveland to get creative in looking to fill open positions.
"We're looking at people from re-entry, we're looking at people with special needs, we're looking at people that maybe come from a different career path," said Jergens President Jack Schron, who added the hospitality industry is a prime example of an untapped talent field.
Jergens employee Stephanie Stinson is an example of someone who never thought she would end up in manufacturing.
"I was capped out actually where I was, I was a front of the house manager and there was no where else I could go accept owning the place, which I did not want to do."
She said a friend who worked at Jergens suggested she apply, she never looked back.
"Literally like two years ago if you had said that I'd be working in a warehouse and enjoying it I would have been like no you're insane," Stinson said.
Sharing what works is part of the thought process behind a newly formed manufacturing sector partnership unveiled Tuesday in Cuyahoga County.
"The goal, I would say mid-term, cause we're also thinking about long game, but in the next three years of this sector partnership is to bring 3,000 new people into manufacturing career paths," said Adam Snyder who is managing director of the MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network) sector partnerships.
A sector partnership is a partnership of organizations within an industry to collaborate with workforce development organizations, education and others to identify needs and prepare the workers.
"So I can be in a room with Towards Employment, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, I can be in there with the Urban League and say here's what I need from a demand side to supply me with the good people," said Elsons International Owner Andrew Jackson. "Anytime you can be more efficient particularly in manufacturing, that's the name of the game."
The Greater Cleveland Partnership is also a driving force behind the effort. President and CEO Joe Roman said the partnership especially helps many smaller manufacturers.
"The manufacturers who are hurting the most are some of the middle market manufacturers. Some of the very largest can invest a little bit more in finding their talent but the middle market who are also the suppliers to the large manufacturers need more help," he said.