02/05/2013 06:22 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

Jobs Are Open Right Now

By Janice Urbanik, CDS, CIT, Director of Industry Partnerships, Partners for a Competitive Workforce.

A recent survey of manufacturers in northern Kentucky showed that there are nearly 700 open manufacturing positions right now and that figure will grow to over 2,500 open positions by 2015 and nearly 6,300 open positions in 10 years. Those numbers are consistent with regional studies that are indicating over 16,000 open manufacturing positions in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky/Southeast Indiana region in 2020. These are solid jobs in machine operations, maintenance, engineering and assembly with good pay -- new hires can start at about $12/hour which can grow to over $25/hour in a few years with additional training.

When asked why these jobs are open when there are lots of people unemployed right now, the northern Kentucky employers played a familiar tune -- lack of basic technical and employability skills. The applicants they get do not know much, if anything, about manufacturing and also have issues with working in teams, professional attitude and work ethic. Training and turnover expenses cost an employer real money until new hires can be productive for the company.

One way to solve this dilemma is by job training programs that also include a transitional employment opportunity -- and Easter Seals TriState has an outstanding program in our region that provides just those services.

Easter Seals provides the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician training (MSSC CPT) to individuals seeking careers in manufacturing. The CPT training includes basic skills in safety, quality, manufacturing processes and maintenance. Graduates of this training will not be skilled machine operators, but they will have a much better sense of manufacturing on day one than other new hire applicants without this training. In fact, one of our local manufacturers who has hired a number of people with the CPT has said:

We were one of the early advocates of the MSSC PT certification because these candidates are familiar with key manufacturing concepts like safety and quality before they walk through our door. That allows them to be more productive sooner than individuals who do not have the CPT. Our confidence in the CPT certification is such that we offer a premium starting wage for new employees who have that certification. I encourage all manufacturers to learn about the MSSC CPT and consider how it might reduce your recruiting and turnover costs.

In addition to the CPT technical training, Easter Seals provides a transitional employment opportunity to participants to allow them to earn wages while in training, but to also learn/demonstrate the crucial employability skills (teamwork, work ethic, critical thinking, etc.) that employers are seeking. When employers interview Easter Seals CPT graduates, they will have a lot more information/data about what this individual really knows and what their job performance has been while in the transitional employment experience. This allows employers to make a more informed hiring decision, thereby leading to reduced recruiting and training expenses and less turnover.

In fact, MAGNET, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership in northern Ohio, has been surveying employers who have hired CPTs about the value their businesses have gained by hiring people with this certification. These employers have reported over $2,000,000 in retained sales because they were at risk of losing contracts because of a lack of a skilled workforce. The employers also reported $250,000 in new sales due to increased production capacity with the CPTs. Their administrative recruiting costs have dropped by $50,000 due to making the better hiring decisions mentioned above. In fact, two manufacturers reported that their recent capital investments of over $6,000,000 reached their startup production goals much sooner than expected due to the staffing flexibility afforded by hiring CPTs.

With this kind of business value being realized, more employers are gaining an appreciation for CPT graduates and Easter Seals is poised to provide candidates with the certification and the work experience that employers are seeking. As noted above, some employers pay a premium wage to CPTs, and many employers in the region give priority review to applications from CPTs to help set them apart from the thousands of other job seekers applying for the open positions.

The Easter Seals program works -- please support it if you can!