Director's Comments

Doug Durliat
Director, Manufacturing Pathways

In 2004, West Central Ohio had just gone through a major downsizing of its manufacturing base, due in large part to the emergence of the global economy. During the decade preceding 2004, manufacturing shrank from 35% to 25% of this region's employment base. There were questions from many fronts on the future of this region's and nation's economy.

Officials from Rhodes State College in Lima were awarded a grant from KnowlegeWorks Foundation and conducted a comprehensive survey of 43 manufacturers in West Central Ohio identified as having high-technology components in their overall operations. The survey focused on determining manufacturers' current and future workforce skill needs.

In short, the survey revealed that unskilled labor will make up a smaller percentage of the new manufacturing jobs; the largest growth will be for intermediate-skilled jobs that require higher technical skills. From this data, the West Central Ohio Manufacturing Consortium's Advanced Manufacturing Pathways program was created. A follow-up survey of 65 regional manufacturers in 2007 showed a continuing trend toward greater skills required from employees.

Today, the regional manufacturing base has again experienced significant downsizing as a result of the recession that began in 2007. During that time, productivity from employees has increased, as persons who have avoided layoffs have needed to learn new skills and responsibilities. To illustrate this trend, the Brookings Institute released a study of the seven states in the Great Lakes region, which includes Ohio. From 1997 to 2004, the number of manufacturing jobs in each state declined by double-digit percentages, however, manufacturing's share of each state's gross state product increased (see chart).

Percent Change in Manufacturing Employment and Inflation-Adjusted Gross State product in the United States and Great Lakes States, 1997 - 2004

Percent Change in Manufacturing Employment and Inflation-Adjusted Gross State product in the United States and Great Lakes States, 1997 - 2004

As manufacturers recall laid-off employees or hire new employees, the positions they hold will likely require additional skills than jobs prior to the recession.

The WCOMC Advanced Manufacturing Pathway program will be a greater tool to obtain the skills needed for the emerging jobs today and in the future. The WCOMC will upgrade existing, or create new programs to meet the needs of this region's manufacturers by communicating with regional manufacturers regularly through the consortium's steering committee and full board meetings along with periodic surveys of manufacturers across the region. This program is manufacturer-driven and administered though its partners in education and community-based organizations.

To find out more about the WCOMC and its Advanced Manufacturing Pathway program, please refer to this website or contact me at 419-995-8353.

-Doug Durliat, Director