us-092816-3-1-clydeWhen it comes to American manufacturing, great things are happening in Sandusky County, Ohio — home to Whirlpool Corporation’s Clyde plant. Recently, an influential economic development group in the county won a prestigious award from the State of Ohio in recognition of workplace development because of their THINK Manufacturing initiative. Whirlpool is a key supporter of the initiative.

The Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA) named “THINK Manufacturing” as the 2016 Annual Excellence Award winner last week for Excellence in Workforce Development. Awards will be handed out in seven categories during the 2016 OEDA Annual Summit next month in Columbus, Ohio.

The Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) created the THINK Manufacturing initiative to market manufacturing as a career in Sandusky County. Because the county has a broad manufacturing base, their challenge is growing the pool of skilled workers to fill existing and future manufacturing jobs. A shortage in skilled trade workers is leaving a generational gap in the manufacturing industry. THINK Manufacturing explains the benefits of working in skilled trades and how the career path can provide a solid career for Sandusky County residents.

Cindy Mudge, Whirlpool Corporation’s HR lead for Clyde Operations, co-chairs the THINK Manufacturing team along with Kay Reiter, executive director of SCEDC.

“Whirlpool [Corporation] has been heavily involved in these events since inception,” Mudge said. “We have the same needs and challenges that a lot of manufactures have in the county, so when Kay asked me to help lead this initiative four years ago, I felt like this was a very important initiative for our company to support.”

The first year, Mudge said that they took high school guidance counselors from all over the county on a bus tour to five different employers in the area including Whirlpool. After the tour, the counselors better understood the skillsets, basics of employability and educational reimbursement options at local manufacturers so that they could then encourage students to consider careers in manufacturing. In 2015, the SCEDC decided to take their messages directly to high school students with their Manufacturers’ Career Showcase, hosted at nearby Terra State Community College.

“Last year, we had more than 825 ninth-grade students in the county come to the showcase,” Mudge explained. “We highlighted electrical and mechanical trades, and these students also had a chance to hear from other companies and employment agencies about opportunities in manufacturing and the skillsets required for success. We are excited because we will be doing the same thing this year on National Manufacturing Day.”

In addition, students will spend time at individual sessions on Teamwork/Problem Solving, Continuous Improvement/Lean, Manufacturing Career Pathways, Machining Trades/Blue Print Reading, Mechanical/Electrical Trades and Robotics/Automation. SCEDC and local employees determined these were the most important needs for employability.