Dayton Daily News

Portman praises Butler Tech for closing skills gap

- By Michael D. Clark Staff Writer SOURCES: DELOITTE, THE MANUFACTUR­ING INSTITUTE, ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTOR­S OF AMERICA. Contact this reporter at 513820-2179 or email Michael.

MASON — When 28 students recently graduated from the precision tool-making program at Butler Tech, they faced an interestin­g challenge. They were bombarded with more than 100 job offers.

The lack of skilled workers that led to such a demand was highlighte­d Friday in a visit to the area by U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who sat surrounded by area manufactur­ing leaders during a roundtable discussion on the gap between open jobs and those trained to fill them.

The ongoing, nationwide problem is finally getting the attention it deserves, Portman told Southwest Ohio industry leaders, but closing the gap remains key to filling chronic shortageso­f skilled workers for America’s industries.

“As a nation, this is critical to our economic and national security,” Portman told more than a dozen industry executives gathered at the Mason headquarte­rs of Rhinestahl Corporatio­n.

Part of the 21st century dilemma faced by industrial companies such as Rhinestahl, which manufactur­es aviation and jet engine tools is the holdover stigma from last century that careers in manufactur­ing always involve working in “a dirty grimy job,” Portman said.

“We’re looking at another Ohio manufactur­er (Rhinestahl) where you can eat off the floor ... and that’s not the image a lot people have of manufactur­ing,” he said.

The stakes are high for both American industries and new workers considerin­g entering its various careers. Manufactur­ing jobs needed in the next decade

Percentage of those jobs that might be left vacant due to a lack of interest and skilled workers

Percentage of constructi­on firms report having a hard time filling hourly craft jobs

Increasing­ly, industrial jobs are exceeding the annual salaries and benefits of those non-industrial jobs that require traditiona­l fouryear college degrees, numerous studies have shown. And overall the starting hourly pay and career-long earnings of industrial and high-tech work can far exceed other career tracks, officials said.

“We have a skills gap (and) Ohio employers are struggling to find people with the skills to fill open jobs,” Portman told the group.

Among those at the table was Michael Berding, president of the governing board of Butler Tech, which Portman repeatedly praised as being among the national leaders in aggressive­ly working with area industries in focusing career learning programs to produce graduates skilled and ready to fill jobs.

Berding and other Butler Tech officials thanked Portman for his work in changing laws expanding financing for high school and adult, career school opportunit­ies.

“What we really need from the federal government is to de-regulate education,” Berding told Portman. “And allow us to teach the kids what they need to know.

“... We have the kids who want the education, but now it’s just finding the money.”

The senator talked about his proposed federal legislatio­n that would expand Pell Grant eligibilit­y options to cover high-quality and rigorous short-term job training programs so workers can afford the skills training.

Though they weren’t at the meeting, other industry officials in Butler County said they are glad Portman and others are shining a spotlight on the skills gap problem.

Michael Perry, human resources manager for the Monroe branch of steel processing manufactur­er Worthingto­n Industries, said “we are trying to get ahead of the skills gap.”

“Not only are we seeing a skills gap but in later years you’ll start to see too many positions going unfilled and not enough people to fill them in part because the boomer generation is retiring,” said Perry, whose local facility employs 192 workers.

Rachel Lawson, a human resource generalist with Worthingto­n, said Butler Tech, one of the largest career schools in Ohio, has in recent years worked hard to become a pipeline of skilled workers for area industries.

“We are really encouraged because Butler Tech is really opening the door and taking feedback from the business community,” Lawson said.

Rick Pearce, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, was glad to hear about Portman’s outreach to local industry.

“I applaud Sen. Portman’s efforts with career technical education,” Pearce said. “The data shows that as a country, we are extremely deficient in individual­s with career technical and trade skills. We at the local level encourage Washington and Ohio to review their policies and funding sources and remove some of the barriers to a career technical education.” 937-278-4287 • Locally Owned Since 1913

 ?? MICHAEL D. CLARK / STAFF ?? U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, put the nation’s manufactur­ing skills gap crisis center stage Friday at a roundtable discussion with leaders from southwest Ohio industrial firms.
MICHAEL D. CLARK / STAFF U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, put the nation’s manufactur­ing skills gap crisis center stage Friday at a roundtable discussion with leaders from southwest Ohio industrial firms.
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