Manufacturing Career Opportunities and Pathways
It’s graduation season and MAGNET is no exception. We recently graduated our largest class from the Early College, Early Career program (ECEC). This “earn and learn” initiative gives high school students paid manufacturing internships and training that creates career and college pathways.
Every month we’re also graduating new trainees from ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers. These are fast, flexible programs that target graduating high school students, underemployed or unemployed adults, or people returning from the criminal justice system – getting them job ready in 30 days.
In the past two years, we’ve graduated 63 students from ECEC. A full 90% were women and/or people of color. And 87% of them went into manufacturing jobs, college or both. Since 2021 we’ve also graduated 185 people from our ACCESS programs and 84% of them were women and/or people of color. More than half of them got manufacturing jobs right away.
Why is this significant? Because with every graduate we’re changing the face of our industry. We’re making manufacturing more diverse. And that’s not only the right thing to do – it’s what we need to do to grow our industry.
Two years ago, we launched the Blueprint for Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio and set a bold goal to create 30,000 new jobs and lead the world in smart manufacturing in the next decade. But we can only achieve this if we have the skilled workers we need to transform our industry. And right now, we don’t. At the moment, there are an estimated 10,000 open manufacturing jobs in Northeast Ohio that companies can’t find workers to fill. Nationally, that number is expected to go from a shortage to a tsunami, reaching 2.1 million by 2030.
One of the big problems is that we overlook talent. Our industry is largely white and male (71% male and 79% white, while Cleveland is only 48% male and 39% white). We simply can’t go on ignoring diverse talent and expect to find enough workers to grow. The math just doesn’t add up.
Our factories need to look more like the communities we serve. We need to stop looking for workers in the same old places. That means recruiting and training people from overlooked and underserved populations like women, people of color, people with disabilities, returning veterans, people working in low paying jobs who want higher paying careers, people returning from the criminal justice system seeking to rebuild their lives. It means inspiring many more high school students to choose manufacturing careers.
And that’s exactly why we created MAGNET’s ACCESS and ECEC programs – to reach these populations and train people in innovative ways. This gives us access to a much bigger talent pool. It’s helping our industry grow. And it’s also changing lives. I’m consistently amazed and inspired at the things we hear from our graduates.
“Manufacturing – I hope to be something big in it. And just be a boss lady in the manufacturing world. And just thrive,” says Lynda Wilson, an ECEC graduate and new Lincoln Electric employee.
“What makes me most proud is I see my wife and kids see me get up everyday and they look at me and they understand what hard work looks like now. Manufacturing changed my life,” says Mario Gross, an ACCESS graduate and CNC Machinist at Jergens.
“A couple of days later he called me and offered me a job. That was one of the happiest days ever for me. Because I was always thinking, I’m fresh out of prison ain’t nobody going to hire me,” says Richard Jackson, an ACCESS graduate who has been promoted several times at Talon Corporation and is now a shift supervisor.
Hearing stories like these is why we do this work at MAGNET. Every day we see the power and potential of connecting people to opportunities. Reinventing the way we train workers and fixing the broken systems that hold people back (transportation, childcare, poverty, food insecurity and the list goes on.) is messy, complicated work. It requires a lot of patience and new kinds of partnerships between industry, educators, funders and community groups. But ECEC and ACCESS prove that when we work together in innovative ways, it works.
Now our focus is scaling these programs so that someday soon we can graduate thousands of workers a year instead of hundreds. That’s part of the mission of the new MAGNET Innovation, Technology & Job Center and why we’re rallying hundreds of companies and community leaders to bring the Blueprint for Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio to life.
I absolutely believe that we can manufacture opportunities for a whole new generation of workers, creating tens of thousands of high paying, high-tech jobs in the next decade. But we can only do it if we link arms and do it together. I hope you’ll join us, and if you need one more push of inspiration, just watch this video. It follows three incredible people overcoming poverty, prison and challenging circumstances to find new hope and build new lives in manufacturing.