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Not Your Grandfather’s Manufacturing – How the Cincinnati Region is Redefining Manufacturing and Building Upon Our Legacy

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REDI Cincinnati’s Talent Director, Adam Jones, had an opportunity to speak with Advanced Manufacturing Industry Partnership’s lead, Chris Leedy, and TechSolve’s Grant Program Manager, Traci Spencer, on how they are preparing a pipeline of manufacturing solutions and talent right here in the Cincinnati region. Read as they speak to the past, present, and future of manufacturing (and how our region is celebrating manufacturing 365 days a year).

  • Can you tell us about your organizations and how you came to have a strong presence in the Cincinnati region?

    Chris Leedy: Advanced Manufacturing Industry Partnership (AMIP) was designed to bring local manufacturers together to collaborate and find solutions for our industry’s skills gaps. Currently, AMIP has 250 active members. Together, we are working to better connect with our future talent pipeline. This starts with speaking to junior high and high school students on what a manufacturing career looks like today. Manufacturing is no longer dirty, dingy, and unsafe – the current environment (and future of manufacturing) has a strong focus on safety, innovation, and problem-solving.

    Traci Spencer: TechSolve is an organization that has existed for 35+ years to advocate for manufacturing in the Cincinnati region and Ohio. We help companies grow and thrive through technology solutions. TechSolve is here to enable manufacturers to identify opportunities that will accelerate and strengthen growth and competitiveness in the global marketplace. TechSolve does not exist in a vacuum. We leverage as many organizations as possible (like AMIP and REDI Cincinnati) to expand our product and service delivery.

  • Ohio Manufactures have rallied together during COVID-19. Can you speak to the relief programs and resources that were recently put in place to support Ohio manufacturers?

    Traci Spencer: If you are a manufacturer, you are an essential worker. Governor DeWine has led the state with his daily update. The state of Ohio has made resources available 24/7 for both individuals and companies. The Bureau of Workers Comp has shared masks, posters, and documents on social distancing. The Ohio Manufacturing Association and the MEP National Network, along with TechSolve, has provided webinars, resource pages, and 24/7 hotlines – answering questions from anyone.

    Manufacturers in this region have truly rallied together. They have told us at TechSolve, “I don’t want to profit, I want to help.” We’ve had a few companies make PPE at a loss, to allow employees to continue to work. We saw partnerships early on and continue to see them across the entire state. The Ohio Manufacturing Alliance – consisting of the Ohio Manufacturing Association, The Ohio MEPs, JobsOhio and its regional affiliates, and the Ohio Hospital Association continue to speak multiple times a day. Together, we’ve found money to retool and reshore PPE production – because as you know, 80% of our PPE was originally manufactured overseas.

  • We have always been a region of makers. What does the future of manufacturing look like; how are manufacturing companies innovating in the region?

    Chris Leedy: There are exciting and viable career paths in manufacturing. We tell students, “this is different from your grandfather’s manufacturing – and, you can earn a good living and support your family.” Manufacturing is modernizing around data, technology, and logistics. We’ve arrived at Industry 4.0. Companies are starting to use live data from the factory floor to constantly analyze how the machines are running and predict and prevent machine breakdowns. We are also using data analytics to better understand customer buying patterns to predict future forecast needs.

    Traci Spencer: And the Cincinnati region is extremely advanced in technology. We have industry leaders like GE Aviation and P&G that are looking 10-20 years in the future. They are asking questions about future workforce needs that will drive our educational institutions’ offerings. Our small and medium-sized manufacturers are adopting Industry 4.0 technologies and TechSolve is assisting them with awareness workshops, cybersecurity services, and IIoT products and services. We are also working with AMIP and the regional educational institutions on a statewide initiative to upskill 5,000 Ohioans with innovative earn-and-learn (apprenticeship) strategies.

  • Speaking of the future, recently Ohio was designated as a Defense Manufacturing Community by the U.S. Department of Defense. We know this will present a bright future for defense contracting in Ohio. Can you speak to the work that is being done specifically at TechSolve for the Cincinnati region?

    Traci Spencer: Because of this effort, the state of Ohio has been awarded $5MM from the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA).  For TechSolve, this means a grant of $900K over three years to support the defense manufacturing community here in Southwest Ohio.

  • Can you talk about how the region is developing manufacturing talent?

    Chris Leedy: Yes, this is crucial. Every manufacturer is working to solve the talent gap as there is a significant percentage of the skilled workforce that is retiring over the next several years and we’ve seen a continuous decline in the number of people interested in manufacturing careers. The key is to educate students in grades 6-12 as well as adults looking for a career change about the great opportunities in manufacturing, then provide them the necessary training, combining technical school training with on-the-job apprenticeship experience. The State of Ohio was awarded a U.S. Department of Labor Scaling Apprenticeship Grant to promote apprenticeship programs and build up the talent pipeline. AMIP is responsible for implementing this grant for the SW Ohio region and we’ve partnered with TechSolve to ensure we meet our goals.

    Traci Spencer: I also want to mention Ohio’s TechCred. This program offers $2k per employee; a company can apply for up to $30K per application round. Our sixth round opened on 10/1/2020 and closed October 30th at 3 p.m. The state is awarding those monies and has prioritized upskilling. The application process is simple. Companies can fill out the application in less than an hour. I can proudly say, the Ohio government is listening and responding to our manufacturers’ needs.

  • We know Manufacturing Day (and month) is in October. Can you speak to what this program has done to celebrate the industry?

    Chris Leedy: Manufacturing day was started by the National Association of Manufacturers. It is all about changing the perception of manufacturing. It is an opportunity to invite high school students into our manufacturing facilities to learn what we do and how they can plan a manufacturing career path. There is a place for anyone and everyone in this industry. In 2019, we had the largest collection of events in the country, hosting more than 5,000 students at about 70 company locations. This year we’ve had to adjust to COVID restrictions and protocols, so we are connecting schools and companies to present virtual learning experiences.

    Traci Spencer: Here in the Cincinnati region, we celebrate manufacturing 365 days a year. For companies looking to get involved, start with a goal you can achieve. At the very least, look at how you are marketing yourself. What does your website look like? Can you feature more people and technology? What is it like – a day in the life of your employees? Have you thought about Facebook Live – walk through the facility and talk to one of the employees – ask them how they got started in manufacturing. Do a #TechTuesday! There are many resources, and we are here to help if your manufacturing facility would like to help change the future workforce’s perceptions about manufacturing.


Learn more and get involved in Manufacturing Day here: