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Every day is Veterans Day at Compco

The main lobby of the Compco office in Columbiana proudly displays plaques honoring its employees who have served in the Armed Forces.

About 10% of Compco employees are Veterans, according to Katy Mumaw, corporate director of sales and marketing.

The Veterans display remains up year-round and has been there for about 10 years. Each employee-Veteran is pictured along with their “Strengths” and service history.

Manufacturing careers and retired servicemen and women often go hand in hand, says Rick Kamperman, manager of product and process development, and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

For Veterans in need of a job after their military career, there are plenty of opportunities in the Mahoning Valley for work in manufacturing.

Compco, a manufacturer of various types of tank heads, is particularly popular with Veterans. Kamperman believes this is due to the problem-solving nature of the projects the company works on.

“One of the mottos from the Marine Corps is ‘adapt, improvise and overcome,’ and that’s a lot of what we do. We work with our customers, they come up with a problem, and we come up with solutions,” Kamperman said.

A career in manufacturing can provide the same fast-paced, solution-based days that military work consists of.

“In manufacturing there are many facets that come along. There’s always problem solving,” Kamperman said.

These aspects of the job are what remind him of his work in the Marine Corps.

Greg Smith, Compco Chairman of the Board, says he is very passionate about incorporating Veterans into the Compco team and honoring them. His philosophy is shared throughout the organization.

“Compco has an ‘Honor Coin’ that is awarded to the men and women who have served to thank them for their service; with Compco’s logo on one side and symbols representing different branches of service on the other,” Mumaw said.

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5 reasons why teens are skipping college and getting right to work

The workforce of the 2020s is rapidly changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic stressors. This has resulted in college enrollments declining nation-wide, universities downsizing, and more young people heading directly into the workforce.

 

graphicEfforts by many industries – manufacturing included – to promote rewarding career options that don’t require the time and expense of a college degree are working. They’re capturing the attention of both young people and their parents.

 

What is it exactly about these go-directly-to-work after high school career paths that resonates most with young people? Through our own observations and from those we’ve curated from trusted partners, it often boils down to one or more of the following five reasons:

 

No debt, please. They don’t want to be saddled with debt from a young age. The thought of taking on tens of thousands of dollars in loans with a level of uncertainty about their payoff is daunting to teens. And rightfully so. The average student loan debt per person is $36,510 according to the College Board. And get this, it’s been reported that as many as 4 out of 10 individuals with student loan debt never finished their degrees.

 

Hands-on learning preferred. They prefer hands-on learning. Trade schools offer certifications and apprenticeships that allow for earn-and-learn, on-the-job training.

 

Prefer staying close to home. According to Imagine America, they might not be ready to leave their hometown. The college admissions process can be overwhelming. Many teens grapple with the decision for years before they graduate high school. Choosing the right college is stressful, and many teens need the opportunity to stay local for a few years while making some money. For some, this can become a career.

 

No family history of college. No one in their family has gone to college. More than 40% of incoming college students are first-generation, according to the Brookings Institute. Navigating the world of higher education is hard enough when a parent or guardian has been through the process. Without a guiding hand, this option can be difficult to tackle for teens.

 

Making money is the priority. They want to earn money right away. Some teens need to support their families as soon as they graduate high school. Others are set on what career path they want to pursue and know it doesn’t require a four-year degree. Manufacturing careers are a great way to find on-the-job training and enter a career that will pay well with great benefits soon after leaving high school.

 

These trends point to the job candidates being out there and receptive to what manufacturing careers have to offer. They underscore the need to continue to aggressively market to them to attract them to our industry. Today’s young people are the future of our workforce.

 

For a current list of active job openings among MVMC members, visit workinmfg.com.

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Member Manufacturers

ClarkDietrich celebrates employee’s 50th year on the job

He’s already an institution, a mentor, a workhorse and all-around good guy, but if Melvin Bragg ever gets around to calling it a career at ClarkDietrich, his name will not soon be forgotten.

Bragg’s Vienna employer celebrated his 50th anniversary at the plant with a warm reception including his wife, current and former co-workers, and corporate executives who traveled in for the occasion.

 

Days earlier, the plant revealed the winning entry in a “Name the Robot” contest among employees to memorialize a new piece of automation equipment brought in to help load and stack pallets. The name plant employees decided on? “Melvin.”

 

“The timing could not have been more perfect. It’s definitely a sign of the amount of respect they have for him,” said Tina Parker, Senior HR Business Partner.

 

The accolades didn’t stop there.

 

Everyone’s got a kind word to say about Melvin

 

“He just loves to work,” said Melvin’s wife, Gertrude. “He ain’t quitting. I tried a few years ago and he said, ‘No, I’m working.’ He’ll retire when he’s ready.”

 

“He’s had a tremendous career here,” said Chris Plant, Plant Manager. “I think he’s done every job in the plant, and we appreciate everything he’s done.”

 

“He’s just a pleasure to be around,” said Safety Manager Ken Von Bergen. “To make it 50 years with one job I think it’s just incredible. He’s an asset you don’t want to lose.”

 

“He’s a great guy, always very helpful,” said Mill Operator Stephen Nyako.

 

“He doesn’t keep his institutional knowledge to himself, Melvin’s going to give you everything he’s got,” said Supervisor Mike Fountain.

“He puts in more hours than anybody, and everybody likes him,” said Supervisor Mike Long.

 

Secrets to Melvin’s longevity

 

It was September 1972 when Bragg’s brother-in-law told him about the opening at what is now ClarkDietrich. Bragg, then just 18, had been performing warranty work at Martin Chevrolet.

 

“I went in, applied for the job and started working the next day,” Bragg said.

 

His starting wage was $2.30 an hour as a guillotine operator, which Bragg said was among the highest paying jobs in the area at the time.

 

Bragg, a man of few works but countless smiles, attributes his staying power to two time-tested pieces of advice: “Keep a positive attitude and you’ve got to enjoy what you do,” he said.

 

Congratulations, Melvin! And keep up the great work.

 

ClarkDietrich is a member-manufacturer of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

 

 

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MVMC to Receive $930,000 from Federal ARP Funds’ “Good Jobs Challenge” Program

MVMC’s funds are part of a $23.5 million grant awarded to the Ohio Manufacturers Association for a 3-year workforce development action plan focused on recruiting and upskilling manufacturing workers across the state.

 

Youngstown, Ohio (Aug. 3, 2022) – The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is in line to receive $930,000 over the next three years as part of The Ohio Manufacturers Association’s (OMA) $23,492,808 award from the Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act Good Jobs Challenge program, which was announced today.

 

OMA is the lead applicant and system lead entity – and one of 32 programs out of 509 applicants throughout the country – to receive a portion of $500 million in federal funds aimed at getting Americans back to work by strengthening workforce partnerships that lead to good-paying jobs.

 

MVMC is among OMA’s network of manufacturing industry sector partnerships throughout the state that will receive funding from this grant to carry out specific recruiting and upskilling components of OMA’s workforce development action plan in the Mahoning Valley.

 

“This investment will enable us to continue the momentum created through our WorkAdvance program, Ohio To Work, apprenticeship and other upskilling efforts,” said Jessica Borza, MVMC executive director. “It will also allow us to continue our grassroots outreach and build upon partnerships with the Regional Chamber, National Center for Urban Solutions, SOD Center, Ohio Technical Centers, Eastern Gateway Community College and other local entities.”

 

50,000+ annual job openings over next 36 months

 

More than 1,600 manufacturers comprise OMA’s statewide ISP network, including 120 that submitted letters of commitment to source new hires from this initiative. In total, these employers indicated a demand for 25,000+ hires in the next five years at an annual wage of $17.60/hour, which reflects the prevailing wages for the initiative’s targeted in-demand occupations of machining, production, welding, industrial maintenance, and automation and robotics.

 

In total, these targeted occupations are projected to have 50,000+ annual openings and 150,000 openings in the next 36 months in Ohio.

 

Targeting underrepresented populations across Ohio’s communities

 

OMA’s initiative prioritizes on Ohio’s 32 Appalachian communities, the eight largest urban counties, and underrepresented groups among the manufacturing workforce including people of color, women, veterans and returning citizens.

 

In response to regional needs and the needs of the target populations, the ISPs will be led to execute an evidence-based Entry-Level Learn-and Earn (ELLE) modeled after MVMC’s WorkAdvance program to prepare a future workforce. The strategy, which gives employers the opportunity to build a workforce trained to their specific needs, includes recruiting, pre-screening, preparing job skills training, onboarding, and ongoing support and job coaching components.

 

“Ultimately, the Good Jobs Challenge grant will lay the groundwork for exponential, ongoing impacts beyond the 36-month grant period by operationalizing sustainable new training programs, formalizing referral partnerships, accelerating ISPs’ momentum, and building underrepresented communities’ interest in manufacturing careers,” said Ryan Augsburger, OMA president.

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Member Manufacturers

Seated in Youngstown, Gasser Chair is global winner in game of thrones

How many times have you gone to a restaurant, hotel or casino and paid attention to the chair?

 

From now on, you probably will.

 

In Youngstown, MVMC member manufacturer Gasser Chair Company builds chairs that can be found around the world.

 

Founded in 1946 by the Gasser family, the company originally manufactured aluminum for helicopters.

 

In the 1960s, there was a transition into dining room sets and chairs, which in time evolved into the product Gasser is known for.

What’s in a chair?

 

Just about every piece of a Gasser chair is made in-house at the facilities on Logan Way.

 

“It’s amazing what all goes into making a chair,” said Tony Brown, human resources manager.

Gasser Chair employee makes foaml
Nearly every part of a Gasser chair is made on-site in Youngstown, including the foam.

 

There are hundreds of types of chairs, he said, and each creation depends on what the customer is looking for.

 

Gasser specializes in hospitality and gaming chairs.

 

Each is designed to a customer’s specifications.

 

“It’s a pretty intricate process,” Brown said.

 

At the corporate office, the sales team comes up with the name of each chair, oftentimes pulling inspiration from the Mahoning Valley.

Putting each other first

 

There are 100 employees at Gasser, between manufacturing employees who make the foam, sew fabrics, weld, hand-craft wood and sew final pieces together.

 

When a potential employee walks in for an interview, they usually always have the same thing to say.

Gasser employee installs rivets into a chair.
There are 100 employees at Gasser, who sew, weld and assemble chairs.

 

“I can’t tell you how many times interviewees will say ‘the culture feels different here,’” Brown said.

 

Oftentimes, employees from different departments check in with others just to see how everything’s working and flowing.

 

“It’s what we pride ourselves on. We’re family-owned and the culture is inclusion and family-oriented.”

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Member Manufacturers

Part 4: Training for Workplace Culture

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

Training is the key to ensuring that the proper processes are taking place on the plant floor.

 

Many companies, unfortunately, just do training through osmosis.

 

“Go stand next to Jim and watch what he does.”

 

It’s a very hands-off and frankly lazy way of training people.

 

Just like with boosting the morale in your company, you must be intentional about your training.

Mapping ideas for employees

 

The old adage says if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

 

Well, if there is no training plan for employees, you are setting them up for failure. Employees must not only have a plan but know what the plan is for them.

 

This type of engagement puts accountability on the employee to really own their training plan. Most often when we are setting up new training or rethinking our old programs, we so often forget the human element of training as well.

 

We choose trainers who have the most knowledge or who have been doing the job the longest.

 

However, we forget to equip those trainers with the soft skills needed to give effective training.

 

Because of this obstacle, the MVMC has found a solution.

Upskilling internal trainers

 

We help offer a “train the trainer” course through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

 

(Click here for more information)

 

While culture in a company is a very complex idea and takes a lot of effort to change and maintain, start with something small, and then be more intentional with incremental workplace culture changes from there.

 

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Member Manufacturers

Part 3: Leading for Workplace Culture

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

A mentor of mine once told me that you should always know at least one thing about a person outside of the workplace.

 

This is something that has always stuck with me. It is something so small it could easily be seen as insignificant.

 

But it is something that can be so powerful.

 

It’s real simple. People want to be treated like people. Not a number.

 

Bringing “home” to work

 

Culture is built on small everyday moments.

 

We have all heard for years that what happens at home should stay at home and you shouldn’t bring it into work.

 

Well, I think we all know that this is near impossible. People are going to struggle with things outside of work that will always affect them in the workplace.

 

When you know what is going on in your employees’ lives, you can do a better job of setting them up for success in the workplace.

 

While changing and maintaining culture is found in these emotional moments, it’s also found in our daily operations.

 

Changing tired thinking

 

I once heard a story of a woman who always cut the ends of her ham off before placing it in the roasting pan and then into the oven.

 

When asked why she did this, she responded, “That’s how my mother did it, and that’s how I was taught.”

 

Then her mother was asked why she cut off the ends of the ham. She also stated, “That’s how my mother did it, and that’s how I was taught.”

 

Finally, when they asked the grandmother why she cut the ends of the ham off, she said, “My pan was always too small to fit the whole ham. So, I cut the ends off.”

 

You can see easily how this story relates to the workplace. Maybe that’s why Joe always sweeps the end of the line first when he is cleaning up. Or why Jill always cranks down on that last pass to make a good part even though that’s not how the task instructions read. Or however this concept plays out in your workplace.

 

There are many tasks and habits spread throughout a facility that were not originally intended to be done that way. But, over time and through tribal knowledge these tasks and habits are picked up. The operational culture is just as crucial to the business as the morale of the employees.

 

And what’s at the heart of operational culture? Training.

 

Read Part 4: Training for Workplace Culture, here.

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Member Manufacturers

Part 2: Campaigning for Workplace Culture

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

We have heard the term “culture” used quite often last two decades.

 

It’s one of those things that we all know exists but can’t quite seem to define. Defining what culture is must come before we can change it.

 

Knowing what culture is and what it is not will lead us to know how it works. Trying to change the culture in your facility without understanding the mechanism would be like trying to change the direction of a cruise ship, without even knowing how it works.

 

Trust me, changing culture in a facility is much like steering a cruise ship. It doesn’t happen fast.

 

Explaining “culture”

 

Defining culture is extremely difficult because it is not something that you can touch, and it is different for each person and company.

 

Culture is how we perceive and feel about our workplace and the people we work with.

 

It is also the machine that keeps a business running. It is the answer to most of your operational questions, too. It is how each employee interacts with the world around them.

 

Like the DNA of your workforce.

 

The role of leaders

 

Whether it is a positive environment or a negative one, every workplace has a culture.

 

As a leader you don’t get to decide whether or not there is a culture in your facility, but you can choose to make it a good one.

 

The leaders of a company are who ultimately decide how the culture will display itself.

 

To have an equitable, encouraging, motivating, empowering workplace, you must first have an equitable, encouraging, motivating, and empowering leader or group of leaders.

 

The leaders within a company or a facility must take responsibility for this part of the business. Otherwise, a company culture left unattended will inevitably flounder. Someone must be in the driver’s seat.

 

Read Part 3: Leading for Workplace Culture, here.

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Member Manufacturers

Examining the Role Workplace Culture Plays in Workforce Development

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

Culture. It’s a common buzzword in the world of workforce development. What is it? Why does it matter? How does it happen? Who’s responsible?

 

These are some of the questions employers should be asking if they want to exist in a post-pandemic job market. Which begs the question …Why now?

 

Is this something new to workforce development? The short answer is, no. Culture is a part of how we interact with other people and the world around us. Culture, whether positive or negative, is always present.

 

It is our responsibility as leaders to build a culture of top performers who are empowered to elevate themselves, those around them, and the company. The longer answer is that culture is built on everyday moments. And over a period of time.

 

Culture is built over time the same way an election is won through a well-thought-out campaign. It’s a series of events of engaging the workforce in big, small, and medium ways from the top down.

 

It’s not shaking one hand that wins an election. It’s shaking a thousand. Same with culture. It’s built over time and incrementally.

 

Agree but not sure where to begin? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to help shape a positive and encouraging work environment at your organization.

 

What is Culture?

 

Culture is the sociological features of the workforce within your facility. Culture could be as simple as saying hello in the morning and goodbye at the end of the day.

 

Culture is measured by the way people feel while interacting, including yourself. Do they feel confident in their abilities and encouraged by their circumstances?

Alex Hertzer, MVMC assistant director.
Alex Hertzer, MVMC assistant director.

Culture should be equitable, ethical, and moral. Culture is the DNA makeup of a group of people and cannot be built or broken by any one person, even if one person is the driving force.

 

Why does Culture matter?

 

Culture is what makes or breaks a workforce.

 

While in the past, workforces were able to be maintained through workarounds to culture. No longer can businesses rest on their laurels of wages, stability, and benefits. Job seekers have seemingly taken the driving wheel from employers. Job seekers want to be happy and fulfilled in their careers.

 

The way an employer can articulate how potential job seekers can find what they are looking for is through their cultures.

 

To be fulfilled, there must be something rewarding and fulfilling about the employee’s job. To be engaged there must be a sense of purpose to what they are doing.

 

None of this can be done if the stale cultures that once were manufacturing facilities remain.

 

While manufacturing may have some hurdles to the modern idea of work culture, it still begins with a first step in the right direction.

 

How does Culture happen?

 

Culture happens through a series of small changes in the way that we interact with the workforce in our facilities. It can only be completely invasive if started from the top down.

 

Culture happens similarly to the way an ice cube melts.

 

Imagine you have an ice cube sitting in a room at 26 degrees. Then you add one degree. 27 degrees. (Start changing the way you greet people) 28 degrees. (Free lunch on Fridays) 29,30,31. Still nothing has happened to the ice cube. Then you hit 32 and the ice cube begins to sweat. 33,34,35,36.

 

The ice cube is now a puddle. Sometimes even as we are taking small steps in the right direction it can look like nothing is changing and then all the sudden things can pick up speed. The key is to keep moving forward.

 

Who is responsible for the Culture?

 

Everyone!

 

While it should start from the top down, everyone plays a role in the culture within a facility.

 

Everyone is equally important in maintaining a sustainable way of treating each other and the facility.

 

Culture is what people do when no one is looking. Culture is doing things right and doing the right thing.

 

Everyone in the canoe has a different role, but everyone must be rowing in the same direction.

 

It’s simple. Culture may begin with a single action, but it is fully realized when the entire group is boldly singing the same song. Like a butterfly flapping its wings in India.

 

Read Part 2: Campaigning for Workplace Culture, here.

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Faces of Manufacturing

Ellwood Aluminum employee touts WorkAdvance for life-altering career change in manufacturing

To most people watching, navigating a larger-than-life Caterpillar wheel loader would be intimidating.

 

Add trails just wide enough for the machine and towering piles of aluminum, it would seem a nearly impossible task.

 

Bernard Jones Jr. makes driving the wheel loader look easy.

 

It’s one of his responsibilities he looks forward to performing at Ellwood Aluminum in Hubbard.

 

The company produces large-diameter aluminum ingot and billet, rectangular slab and cast plates.

Taking care of the “work family”

When Jones gets out of the wheel loader and stands near the piled scrap, everything looks scaled to match him.

 

Standing at around 6’8” tall, his enthusiasm for work matches his stature.

Bernard Jones stands with equipment.
Bernard Jones Jr. learned to operate a wheel loader while working at Ellwood Aluminum in Hubbard. For most people, working the wheel loader is intimidating. Jones took the responsibility and embraced it.

The furnace operator began working at Ellwood in March 2022.

 

He learned the basics of the manufacturing industry through WorkAdvance after being recruited through the National Center for Urban Solutions.

 

WorkAdvance prepares inexperienced individuals for entry level positions in advanced manufacturing; positions with MVMC member manufacturers that include career growth opportunities. NCUS is a community grassroots recruiting partner of MVMC.

 

“Going through the training to work at Ellwood, it was very helpful,” Jones said, adding he was transitioning from another job.

 

At Ellwood, everyone has to be responsible and it’s taught in the training, he said.

 

Safety is among the largest responsibilities stressed, Jones said.

 

“When you’re responsible for others along with yourself, that makes it along the lines of a family rather than just an employee.”

 

Training is an important component of working at Ellwood.

 

“With the type of work we’re dealing with, we have to have that extensive training,” said Hank Stull, HR manager.

Don’t think twice about WorkAdvance

Jones, Stull and Steve Page, general manager at Ellwood, have advice for anyone thinking about completing the WorkAdvance program.

 

In two words: Do it.

 

“The more education you have coming into this field itself, the better. Listen to what you’re learning,” Jones said. “Any type of work advancement lets you be better than you were before.”

Bernard Jones Jr. stands in front of scrap aluminum.
Enrolling in WorkAdvance has provided Bernard Jones Jr. an opportunity to learn the basics of manufacturing.

 

Folks interested should be willing to learn, ready to work, Stull added.

 

WorkAdvance helps people “understand what’s needed to succeed in manufacturing,” said Page.

 

“It’s a great way to get hands-on experience but also decide which aspect of the industry – or if at all – is the right fit,” Page added.

 

Jones offered a bit more guidance: “Just be patient.”

 

When Jones isn’t working as a furnace operator, he’s a motivational speaker and works on a nonprofit he’s putting together: Rehabilitation to Revitalization.

 

Its focus is to bring individuals who were incarcerated to get together and help clean Youngstown.

 

From his nonprofit to his work at Ellwood, a common theme for Jones is sharing knowledge.

 

“You have to have a passion for what you’re doing and respect the energy being passed on,” sharing what you’ve learned with those around you, Jones said.