MARYSVILLE — A coalition of businesses, educators, and economic development officials in an eight-county region of west central Ohio is working to raise awareness of manufacturing careers in an innovative and mobile way.
Facing the pending retirement of thousands of workers over the next decade and the need for incoming employees with strong technical skills, the coalition seeks to showcase modern manufacturing with a traveling “mobile lab” — a truck trailer outfitted with examples of the latest technology utilized in manufacturing, including robotics, CAD (computer-aided design) and CNC (computer numerical control) machines.
The targeted region includes Champaign, Franklin, Hardin, Logan, Madison, Marion, Morrow and Union counties.
“At a time when the technological needs of manufacturing are greater than ever, businesses and educators in the region have noticed a decline in the number of students enrolled in technical programs and courses,” said Scot McLemore, technical development manager for Honda North America, Inc. in Marysville. “We launched this project to promote technical education opportunities and corresponding manufacturing careers to students, parents, teachers, and the community.”
In addition to the mobile component, the project organizers envision the Computer-Integrated Mobile Lab Program (CIMLP) to also have permanent technical labs at regional career and technical centers, including Ohio Hi Point Career Center in Logan County; Tolles Career & Technical Center in Madison County; and Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion County. The permanent labs will also be utilized for incumbent worker training.
Based on similar programs in Michigan and Wisconsin, the CIMLP seeks to provide a needed boost to Ohio’s workforce by showing students that careers in manufacturing are highly rewarding, available to workers with wide variety of skills and abilities, and provide competitive pay and benefits.
“The CIMLP mobile laboratories will contain machinery, computers, and other equipment in line with the needs of modern manufacturers,” said Chuck Speelman, superintendent of Tri-Rivers Career Center. “The state-of-the-art mobile labs will provide students with a more accurate image of high tech manufacturing. The ultimate goal is to increase enrollment in permanent labs at area career and technical schools where dual credits will be offered to students enrolled in manufacturing-related courses, and thus quickly prepare students to enter into high-tech manufacturing careers,” Speelman concluded.
“We, as industry leaders, have to step up and help tackle the issues facing our state, such as workforce training. By encouraging our youth to consider manufacturing as a career, we not only help the businesses who need workers, we also help the students ultimately utilize their skills in a highly-rewarding career,” said Bassam Homsi, President of AutoTool, Inc., one of the early backers of the mobile lab concept.
The coalition has raised more than one-third of the estimated $1.4 million needed for the entire project and continues to seek additional participants and funders to enable the project to launch by the end of the year.
For more information about the program, visit: www.unioncounty.org/economic-development/lab.