Ohio third in nation for apprentices


Ohio is No. 1 in the Midwest and third across the U.S. for number of apprentices, lofty rankings achieved in part because of effort by the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition to create workforce training programs and manufacturers eager to be part of them.

“We have a number of group sponsored apprenticeships that MVMC manages … those are in machining, industrial maintenance and welder / fitter, and we’re in the process of developing a new one for robotics technician,” said coalition Executive Director Jessica Borza. “The benefit to the companies participating in those is that MVMC serves as the sponsor of record so it makes it easier for them to plug-and-play in those programs.”

Also, we “work closely with high school career and tech centers and have preapprenticeship programs, so those high school students can actually start working in companies that have registered apprenticeship programs with the hopes there will be a career pathway there for them, or at least some exposure so they get real hands-on experience,” Borza said.

Across 14 counties in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including the counties that make up the Mahoning Valley, there were 300 registered apprentices in the American Apprenticeship Initiative, a five-year program that ended in September.

The initiative, part of the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, of which MVMC is a part, received $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to stand up — with help from manufacturers and education partners — apprenticeship programs in machining, industrial maintenance and welder / fitter.

According to the apprenticeship network, 81 companies participated in 140 individual and 160 group-sponsored models.

Another department of labor grant is helping to sustain the programs, Borza said.

The Scaling Apprenticeship Grant “allows us to continue to support the existing companies if they want to add new apprentices, but also to talk to new companies and help them understand the benefits of apprenticeships,” she said. It is for $568,400 for three years, but Borza said she expects it to be extended one more year.

Contributing to the sustainability of the programs, and helping manufacturers to offset some of the cost, the programs were approved for the state’s TechCred program, a program that reimburses manufacturers up to $2,000 for the cost of training for each credential earned.

“It’s a real nice, kind of easy way for companies to tap into additional funding to support that training,” Borza said.

Lake Park Tool & Machine on Velma Court in Youngstown has taken advantage of training programs through the MVMC and hopes to do more in the future, said RJ Fryan, chief executive.

When he came on board at the company in July, he connected with Borza, who explained to him what programs were available.

Lake Park Tool & Machine employs about 20 workers. The company specializes in aluminum extrusion container repair, a niche product used in every aluminum extrusion shop across the globe, Fryan said.

Fryan said he would like to have 50 employees to meet demand.

He relies on training programs because the company doesn’t have a large human resources department or organization advancement staff to develop the training course in-house. MVMC, he said, helps his company and others in the similar position to assemble cohorts for group training at places like Eastern Gateway Community College.

Fryan said he has one employee in the latest cohort and hopes to assemble another for advanced machining in the near future. For that, he has possibly four employees ready.

“The more businesses like Lake Park, some of the other small ones that can take advantage of these programs, the better the overall workforce is going to be,” Fryan said. “It’s not just Lake Park, it’s the other 50 companies that are like Lake Park in the Youngstown and Warren area. We all need better machinists, welders and that will attract more businesses to come locate here if they know that they have a very highly skilled and educated workforce.”

In the state, there are more than 19,500 Ohioans enrolled in ApprenticeOhio programs. The state has apprenticeship opportunities in 180 occupations, from health care to advanced manufacturing to energy to computer programming.

Apprentices complete at least 2,000 hours of structured on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom training, typically at a local college or university. They also earn wages while they work under the supervision of a mentor. When they complete their programs, they receive a nationally recognized credential.

Ohio also has more than 100 preapprenticeship programs, which allow participants to learn the basic foundational skills needed to be successful in an apprenticeship program, and is growing those programs with a $9.4 million federal grant.

“An apprenticeship is an earn and learn pathway to a rewarding career without the burden of college debt,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “For employers, apprentices provide a ready pipeline of talent, who develop skills that meet industry and organization standards that help their business and America compete in the global economy.”

By the numbers

The American Apprenticeship Initiative was a 5-year program to develop apprenticeship programs in 14 northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania counties. Here are some of the numbers:

• 81 companies participating

• 140 individual and 160 group-sponsored models

• 300 registered apprentices

• Occupations:

• 84 machinists

• 66 maintenance / maintenance repair / machine repair (industrial and electrical)

• 57 toolmakers / tool and die makers

• 23 welder / fitters

• 10 machine assembler / machine tryout setter (CNC machinist)

• 29 plastic process technicians

• 8 coremakers

• 7 molder / mold makers

• 4 pet food extrusion specialists

• 3 pipefitters

• 3 electrical assembly specialist

• 2 instrumentation and electrical technicians

• 2 mechatronics technicians

• 1 patternmaker

• 1 millwright

• 1 automation technician

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