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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.

Categories
Member Manufacturers

Austintown manufacturer promotes trainings for employees to grow

MVMC member manufacturer Xaloy LLC in Austintown is building a stronger culture by improving communication skills of team leaders within the company.

Thinking before talking

 

Jesse Shaffer is a production supervisor covering the second and third shifts at Xaloy.

 

He manages about 30 employees, taking care of timecards and executing plans set by the day shift leadership.

 

He’s been participating in the Leadership Essentials program, a six-part training series to better communicate with employees.

Jesse Shaffer talks during a training session.
Jesse Shaffer, a supervisor with Xaloy LLC in Austintown, shares insight during a training session on how it’s helped him learn to communicate with his team.

“It’s been a lot about communication” and learning about generational habits, he said.

 

For instance, Shaffer has learned to ask open-ended questions to elicit more information as well as provide an opportunity for an employee to share something he didn’t think to ask.

 

The training has also taught Shaffer to assess what he wants to say during a conversation.

 

“I can take a step back and think about how I’m going to say something,” he said. “Sometimes, how I think it is going to come across isn’t going to be the same as how someone will receive it.”

 

He’s also learning how to interact with and guide different generations, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z.

 

Shaffer’s goal in his leadership role is to help his team work cohesively.

 

The training gives him a chance to work on his leadership. “It’s always going to be a work in progress, but it’s very useful” to have this knowledge and awareness, he said.

Investing in the workforce

The leadership essentials program was built especially for Xaloy through the Center for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University.

 

There’s a certificate for participants after completion, said Trudy Cheney, global human resources director for Xaloy.

 

“This training gives our employees the tools they need to draw on when they run into challenging situations,” she said.

 

Kamal Tiwari, CEO of Xaloy, also “made it very clear” that training of all types is important to him, Cheney said.

 

By investing in employees, they can develop and grow along with the company.

 

Shaffer agreed that Xaloy creates chances for employees to evolve.

 

“I started as an entry-level employee. One of the positions someone can get coming off the streets,” he said, adding he was able to work his way up in several years due to all of the training company offered him. “Being given the opportunity to advance and have career development is refreshing.”

 

Xaloy LLC has been an MVMC member since 2018.

 

Calling on resources through the partnership with MVMC was one of many benefits of joining the coalition, Cheney said.

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Media Coverage

Study: Traditional four-year degree losing steam among teens

More than half of teenagers are open to alternatives to a traditional college degree to prepare them for a career.

 

According to a 2021 survey by ECMC Group, just 48 percent of high school students are considering a four-year degree. That number is down from 71 percent from May 2020.

 

More than half of those surveyed feel they can achieve success in three years or fewer of education, including through apprenticeships.

 

Among the “quicker pathways to careers” they view as most appealing: trade skills and on-the-job training.

 

What can that mean for manufacturing?

A new phase in manufacturing

 

Alex Hertzer, MVMC assistant director, said the timing of the survey’s findings is great news for Mahoning Valley manufacturers. To capitalize on the opportunity, he said we must acknowledge and defeat the still-lingering stigmas of industry along with a misconception of how to approach growing the talent pipeline.

 

“We need to promote to job seekers that we’re in a new era in manufacturing,” Hertzer said.

 

Employee works machine at Extrudex.
Hunter Wess began his career in manufacturing through WorkAdvance, a program teaching him the basics of the industry.

That new era includes more technology, automation, safety, clean and bright facilities, and real career paths.

 

It’s finding a way to relate the new industry shifts to Gen Z and future generations, Hertzer said.

 

“As a high school senior, some information might come from influencers.”

 

Using local influencers is a way to show teens “manufacturing is enticing. There are benefits, good pay and the biggest thing right now: culture.”

 

Job seekers want to have that life-work balance, Hertzer said.

 

It’s important that job seekers see a logo or hear a manufacturing company name and immediately associate it with a positive culture, he added.

 

Hertzer said to reach Gen Z to dispel old ideas about manufacturing, the approach of explaining is key.

 

“It’s about rebranding manufacturing as an opportunity. It’s not just an option.”

 

Hertzer said collectively we need to convey a consistently positive message about today’s manufacturing careers.

 

“Let people know yes, you’re going to work hard and sweat, but you’re going to feel you’re part of a family, you’ll have great benefits, your supervisors are there to help you. You’ll have a career path and will grow,” Hertzer said.

Learning while earning

 

Providing opportunities for Gen Z to start making money right as they graduate can be crucial, Hertzer said.

 

Apprenticeships give people a feel for what work needs to be done, and it allows apprentices to mesh with seasoned employees while learning on-the-job.

 

In the survey, 65 percent said they felt skills should be learned in a lab setting or somewhere hands-on. Another 53 percent would opt to gain skills in apprenticeship-type experiences.

 

Locally that can be done through programs like WorkAdvance and registered pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.

 

Categories
Faces of Manufacturing

Livi Steel electrical engineer encourages young people to find work they enjoy doing

To anyone not familiar with manufacturing, David Gomory’s desk can be overwhelming.

Surrounded by countless binders, books and drawings on shelving, desks and the walls, the Livi Steel engineer has a method for where everything is located.

Livi Steel is a member manufacturer of MVMC.

It’s all in a directional flow, each binder organized by year, spanning his career.

Starting at the beginning

Gomory went to Penn State University and Youngstown State University, two years each, earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Following college, Gomory started out in a nuclear power plant, doing inspections during the construction phase.

Had he continued with the career, he would have had to travel around the country.

David Gomory has built a career with Livi Steel as a problem-solving engineer.

“That lifestyle didn’t appeal to me,” Gomory said.

That’s when he decided to look into the manufacturing industry.

Taking the idea from his own father, Gomory started with Livi Steel about 30 years ago as a detailer.

“The basic aspect is when erectors in the field receive a delivery of steel beams, they look at the diagrams on how to assemble them,” Gomory said.

Then, if there are problems or the contractor has a question, “that’s when they call me,” he said.

There’s a lot of attention to detail that goes into each diagram. Once they are completed, the work is looked over by a “checker.”

After about five years in the industry, Gomory started doing checking, eventually leading to problem-solving out in the field.

Building resources

Looking at his workspace, Gomory knows where each document is, and how it’s precisely organized.

“After you’ve been at this a while, you get to a point there’s a library,” he said, laughing.

That library includes codes and zoning information, parts of the job he enjoys learning and knowing.

He encourages anyone to find work they like doing.

“You can have a first job you don’t like and that’s okay but find something you enjoy doing because otherwise you’ll be miserable,” Gomory said.

Looking back at his career, he said he feels fulfilled.

“I really like it. I can actually say I enjoy what I did.”

Categories
Member Manufacturers

Valley Partners, a nonprofit funding source for local businesses

Are you preparing to finance a project to expand your business?

Look no further for option than to MVMC new member Valley Economic Development Partners.

Since 1978, the nonprofit has helped local small businesses with loans.

“We offer and facilitate a variety of loan programs to support small businesses with specialized flexible lending solutions.,” said Teresa Miller, executive director.

Think of it as bridge or gap financing packages.

There are a number of options, including larger SBA-partnered programs, where Valley Partners mitigates risk to the bank and client by funding a portion of the project.

“We take a second position on collateral behind the bank,” Miller said.

Valley Economic Development Partners employees pictured, left to right, front row, are: Julie Swauger, office manager/trust manager; Madison Hoover, loan assistant/marketing manager; Teresa Miller, executive director; Cassie Wyatt, business coach. Left to right, back row, are: Mario Nero, director of economic development lending; Greg Lutz, financial specialist; Maureen Stenglein, SBA lobal officer; and Wendy Walters, director of servicing.

If a business applies for a loan at a bank, the bank can say the business must have 20 percent equity for a $5 million project.

Valley Partners enters, offering funding for 40 percent of the project, while the bank offers 50 percent. That will leave the business portion to 10 percent.

There are smaller loan programs, where Valley Partners is able to fund without bank participation as well.

A long-time popular option which will likely see a resurgence Miller said is a loan fund from the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) called the Regional 166. It is targeted for the manufacturing industry.

While interest rates are on the rise, Regional 166 loans will most likely remain around 3 to 4 percent.

This is great for expansions, equipment purchases, location moves or purchasing a new building, Miller said. If a company wants to finance on their own, Valley Partners can utilize the Regional 166 loan for 75 percent of the project if the business funds the remaining 25 percent.

“This is a perfect loan fund program for fixed assets a manufacturing company might be looking for.”

For more information or to being the application process, visit www.valleyedp.com.

“We’re here to help and partner with their banks to make the best loan package that’s possible for small businesses in the Valley.”

Categories
Media Coverage

Job seekers and employers linked at Youngstown Works job fair

Within the first half hour of a five-hour job fair, Vallourec was scheduling candidates for job interviews for the next day.

“We had openings for condensed-session interviews, and those spots were filled almost immediately,” said Elizabeth Aukerman, Vallourec talent acquisition specialist.

Vallourec was among 70 entities from the Mahoning Valley, including MVMC members, to participate in the Youngstown Works inaugural hiring event.

Dave Macek, human resources business partner at Vallourec, talks with two job seekers during a hiring event in Youngstown.

Finding employees

Youngstown Works is a consortium of employers and educational partners spearheaded by MyPath Mahoning Valley.

More than 200 job seekers attended. Some interviewed on the spot and others started the application process.

Bringing employers and schools together for the hiring event is one approach when finding employees, said Julie Michael Smith, MVMC project manager.

“Reaching job seekers has been diverse, through hiring events, social media and referrals,” she said.

Job seekers can also talk with companies one-on-one about what to expect at facilities when they connect at job fairs.

For manufacturing, many people think they have a sense of what the industry is, “an outdated misconception” that every facility is dark, loud and filled with back-breaking work.

“It’s completely changed” with emerging technology and updating facilities coming into play, Smith said.

Rethinking the workplace

Peoples’ expectations about work have changed, too.

There has been “lots of turnover” over the last couple of years, as people have reevaluated what they’ve been doing at the workplace.

“Now, people are looking to reskill” and even train for something new, Smith said.

A recruiter talks with students.
Nichole Noday, a human resources generalist with Ultium Cells, LLC, left, talks with East High School juniors Carlos Gonzalez, Tyreek West and Eddie Pierce.

To help job seekers connect with careers in manufacturing, technology and health care, MVMC serves as operations manager for the Ohio To Work Mahoning Valley program, which runs through 2022.

“Ohio To Work is an opportunity to focus on showing job seekers what manufacturing is today,” Smith said.

For more information on Ohio To Work hiring events, contact Smith at julie@mahoningvalleymfg.com.

Categories
Faces of Manufacturing

WorkAdvance teaches Hubbard man skills needed to succeed in manufacturing

At 18 years old, Hunter Wess is already saving for a house.

 

That’s not all the fiscal responsibility he has.

 

“I just opened a retirement fund, too. When I’m 19, I’ll get a 401k.”

 

These benefits were made possible through WorkAdvance.

Taking advantage of WorkAdvance

 

Wess was able to set up his future right out of high school taking a job at Extrudex Aluminum in North Jackson.

 

Helping him gain a range of skills to prepare for the opportunity was WorkAdvance.

Hunter Wess applies what his peers at Extrudex Aluminum in North Jackson teach him about running a press. He was hired in after graduation when he completed the WorkAdvance program.

 

Offered through MVMC, those enrolled learn the basics of manufacturing while earning a stipend over a six-week period.

 

The course was offered while Wess, 18, was a senior at MVMC education partner, Trumbull Career and Technical Center.

 

“I went through the classes to get manufacturing certificates,” he said.

 

Through a partnership with Goodwill Industries, Wess also earned customer service credentials.

 

“They helped us with practicing what to do in interviews,” Wess said.

 

Right after graduation, he was hired to work on the saw, stacking aluminum extrusions. He learned how to use the crane and stretchers so he can straighten the extrusion as it comes out of the press.

 

Now, “I’m learning how to run the extrusion press.”

 

Prior to enrolling in WorkAdvance, Wess didn’t know what was involved in manufacturing. “I had no idea about plants like Extrudex and how they run.”

 

Originally, he went to TCTC for the construction track, specifically to build house frames.

 

Now that he has an understanding of manufacturing, he’s happy he can do what he enjoys and get paid for it.

 

“I’ve always had a fascination with seeing machines, figuring out how they work. Now I work with these giant industrial machines and I run them.”

Having that work-life balance

 

Throughout high school, Wess worked in fast-food.

 

That meant scarce wages, unpredictable schedules and no health insurance.

 

Working at Extrudex, Wess works two 12-hour shifts, then is off for two days. “I get a lot of days off to do whatever I want.” There is also plenty of opportunity to work overtime, he said.

 

It was through WorkAdvance that he was able to have stability at a young age.

 

Mostly online, he said it was worth the time and energy. “I ended up learning a lot more than I thought I would.”

 

Most of what he learned through the program he was able to apply directly to his job at Extrudex.

 

“There was some stuff I thought I would never use, but I came here and thought, ‘Oh, now it makes sense.’”

At 18 years old, Hunter Wess of Hubbard is already saving for a house. He also has started investing in retirement, due to starting a career in manufacturing straight out of high school.

 

Going through WorkAdvance, Wess was able to learn certain skills faster at Extrudex because he already had an idea of what to expect, he said.

 

For example, there was an entire section on cranes, which came in handy. “I already knew how to do all of the safety and run the cranes.”

Teamwork

 

As Wess has worked at Extrudex, he has picked up what his peers do, and they have helped teach him how to use machinery.

 

“I learned how to run the saw as I stood and watched them,” he said. Eventually, he learned all the different commands on the keyboard, and he’s built his skills from there.

 

As he learns new skills, Wess is able to work other jobs at Extrudex.

 

“If the saw operator’s not able to come in, I can do it.”

 

The ability to learn a swatch of skills is an all-hands-on-deck approach at Extrudex, Wess said. There’s also a team-oriented atmosphere with the company.

 

He works with the same people, so he’s gotten to know them. Sometimes they’ll hang out.

 

“Everyone helps each other.” Whenever someone can’t make it to work, everyone pitches in and shuffles jobs for the day if needed to keep operations smooth, Wess said.

Go for it

 

Now that he has been learning the ropes of manufacturing, Wess said he sees himself doing his line of work for a long time.

 

Anyone looking for a first-time job or a career change should consider manufacturing, he said.

 

“The best thing you can do is research” when job searching.

 

For manufacturing, “you don’t need a whole lot of external training to come here. They have entry-level positions and as you learn, you move up,” Wess said.

 

“It’s definitely worth it.”

 

When he’s not working, Wess spends time with friends, camping and working in the man cave – his shed.

 

Categories
Member Manufacturers

Salem manufacturer ships around world

In the industrial portion of Salem is a larger-than-life manufacturer with ties all around the world.

 

Founded in 1985 by engineer John Buta, Butech Bliss is known globally for rugged machinery, notably a scrap chopper.

 

Butech Bliss is an MVMC member.

 

The Butech Bliss scrap chopper processes ferrous and non-ferrous metals that are various thicknesses and material yield strengths.

A machinist works at Butech Bliss in Salem.
Bill Bingham, a machinist with Butech Bliss, operates and retools an Ingersoll planer Mill with a 420” table and 100,000-pound weight capacity.

Buta still owns the company today that employs 294 people.

 

In the early 2000s, Butech purchased the assets of Bliss which included a large manufacturing facility the newly combined companies are now known as Butech Bliss.

 

Employees can install the new machinery once it’s complete, also training customers on how to use the new equipment.

 

Family atmosphere

 

Walking through Butech Bliss, many of the employees have a welcoming, close demeanor.

 

That’s partly due to a family atmosphere with low turnover.

 

“We have many employees that have been with the company for many years. Butech Bliss is a family-owned business and they set in place a very nice benefits package with a rich vacation package, paid medical insurance and annual bonus just to mention a few,” Lisa Kravec, marketing and advertising manager, said.

 

There’s also an investment in new employees.

 

Butech Bliss offers an apprenticeship program for machinists and large equipment assemblers.

 

Big projects

 

The three facilities in Salem are a combined 500,000 square feet.
The Bliss portion makes the steel.

 

Jobs at Butech Bliss are oftentimes massive, said Lisa Kravec, marketing and advertising manager.

Two Butech Bliss large assembly equipment technicians work on a stretch leveler also used in the processing of steel.
Two Butech Bliss large assembly equipment technicians work on a stretch leveler also used in the processing of steel.

“Sometimes our pieces are so big we have to hire super trucks that have 19 axels and are escorted by police cars,” she said.

 

Then there was the time Butech Bliss build the world’s largest shear for a client in Germany.

 

To transport the machinery overseas, a ship from a Cleveland port was hired, Kravec said.

 

Helping to further shape the manufacturing field, Butech Bliss is building machinery for the nation’s most efficient steel plant in Siton, Texas.

 

A hot mill will go in, surrounded by service centers. One of the centers has purchased two service lines.

 

“We’re getting to be a player in this huge project in Texas. It’s exciting,” Kravec said.

Categories
Faces of Manufacturing

Shop foreman at Livi enjoys close work ties, reliable life provided by manufacturing

Walking into Livi Steel in Warren, there’s a close bond that is obvious as soon as you walk in the office and shop doors.

 

One of the reasons it’s a familiar atmosphere is due to the shop foreman, Michael Simmons.

 

Overseeing day-to-day production of the 16-crew shop, Michael enjoys his work because he likes spending time with his coworkers, but he also enjoys manufacturing.

Michael Simmons verifies markings on a steel beam.
Michael Simmons, shop foreman at Livi Steel, has worked with the company in Warren for about 25 years. His father was also shop foreman.

“My favorite part of my job is loading all the different trucks and helping coworkers solve problems,” he said.

 

Michael keeps track of inventory in the shop, along with what is being shipped and received, and anything involving the trucks delivering and taking steel.

 

He’s been with Livi Steel for about 25 years.

 

Adding to the family atmosphere, Michael’s father, Charlie, was shop foreman for 35 years.

 

“He taught me how to do this job,” Michael said.

 

Also working in the shop is his uncle Dave, a fitter, and previously uncle Bob, also a fitter and first responder.

 

Working his way up the ladder with Livi, Michael encourages anyone searching for a solid career to check out manufacturing.

 

He started as a laborer and after learning every role at Livi, he is now the shop foreman.

 

“Working here means a steady paycheck and good benefits,” he said.

 

In addition to being a leader at Livi Steel, Michael enjoys riding motorcycles and watching sports.

 

He roots for the Cleveland Browns and Ohio State.

 

Most important and the most fun, though, is spending time with family, especially now that he’s a new grandfather.

Categories
Faces of Manufacturing

300th Apprentice’s story illustrates career growth potential in manufacturing

Last month we reported that the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, of which MVMC is a part, reached its 5-year goal of enrolling 300 registered apprentices in the American Apprenticeship Initiative grant.

 

In fact, 18 MVMC members were among 70 manufacturers in the region to participate in this $2.9 million grant.

 

This month we tracked down the apprentice who pushed us over the top. He is 29-year-old Mark Kmecik of Girard, Pa., from Northwestern Manufacturing in Lake City, Pa. His backstory illustrates the rewarding, long-term career paths available in manufacturing and is worth sharing.

An apprentice works on machinery.
Helping MVMC meet its goal of 300 registered apprentices for a grant was Mark Kmecik, through Northwestern Manufacturing in Pennsylvania.

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Mark attended trade school for CNC machining.

 

He secured a job that offered an apprenticeship program so he could continue learning and earn additional certifications to advance his career.

 

He’s hoping to complete his current apprenticeship in 2 or 3 years, Mark said.

 

“I just started, but I am looking forward to branching out and growing my knowledge in more areas of machining.”

 

The program at NWM isn’t necessarily time-based, Clay Brocious, plant manager, said.

 

“Based on the framework provided by the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, our program is a knowledge and competency-based program.”

 

Apprenticeship programs help shape people’s work trajectory, Mark said.

Mark Kmecik is a U.S. Navy veteran who recently enrolled in an AAI apprenticeship program.

“I think offering structured training is a good way for companies to attract and retain goal-oriented people by giving them clear objectives for growth,” Mark said.

 

When he’s not studying, Mark and his wife, Lydia, are kept busy with their 1-year-old daughter, Eve.