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Program helps job seekers with ABCs of manufacturing

Pairs candidates with companies

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Jim Scheuing, general manager of Extrudex Aluminum, inside the aluminum extrusions plant on Mahoning Avenue in North Jackson. The company is partnering with the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition to identify and train job candidates though the manufacturers coalition’s WorkAdvance program.

NORTH JACKSON — Till now, Extrudex Aluminum recruited its workforce really just by hanging a help wanted sign on the exterior of its Mahoning Avenue manufacturing plant.

There was occasion, too, when the maker of aluminum extrusions used temporary labor, getting lucky here and there that one of those people would stick for the long-term, said plant general manager Jim Scheuing.

So when they were introduced to a way that could help them meet their hiring needs, they jumped, and are now what Scheuing called the “guinea pig” in Mahoning County for the new WorkAdvance, a program of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition that helps identify and train job candidates.

The fast track training, tailored specifically to the job skills needed by Extrudex in this case, is five weeks long and promises a job at the plant for people who successfully complete the course. The program also provides a network of job support and job coaching after being hired.

“Those are the big points without a question because getting people that want to work is the key so as they go into the WorkAdvance program, that means they want to better their lives a little bit, they want to get into a career hopefully,” Scheuing said.

THE PROGRAM

“It’s a program to prepare individuals who might not have manufacturing experience and who might be looking for an opportunity that pays better wages and has room for advancement to get skilled-up in the fundamentals of manufacturing so that they can be ready to enter into and advance within a manufacturing career,” said Jessica Borza, executive director of the manufacturers coalition.

In some instances the program can act as a refresher, “but typically what we see is someone who has worked in fast food or has been working part-time and is just thinking they really need to think about a career instead of a job,” Borza said.

Extrudex is the first partner in Mahoning County since the manufacturers received another $2.5 million through a federal Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities grant. The program had existed before, but had been molded and refined over the past several years to perfect it, Borza said.

The goal is to run 200 participants through the program over the three-year funding cycle. Pennex Aluminum in Columbiana will be in the next cohort.

“The new grant is allowing us to take the work we did and experiment and prove out the concept, and now we want to really take it to scale so we are looking to work with a lot of different companies throughout the Valley and across the border in Pennsylvania because it’s an Ohio-Penn (Oh-Penn Interstate Region) project,” Borza said.

The coalition partners with the company to structure the program to be in line with its needs and develop the accelerated training. Those who finish are guaranteed a job with the manufacturer.

In addition, the coalition assigns coaches to all participants to help during the training on setting and meeting career goals.

The coach will stay with the participant for a year on the job “basically to help them troubleshoot things that come up,” and “from the company’s standpoint, the coach also is talking to the supervisor to say, what can this individual do to improve their performance on the job” and be in position to advance, Borza said.

The partners in this first cohort are Goodwill Industries, Aspire for a refresher in math; Community Action Partnership on work readiness; and Eastern Gateway Community College for the technical training.

No experience is required, but candidates must have a high school diploma or GED.

Available positions at Extrudex pay a minimum of $12 per hour, monthly incentives, year-end gain sharing and include opportunities for advancement.

Attendance at an information session to learn about the job opportunities is required. A virtual session is set for 2:30 p.m. Monday. Go to workadvan ceohpenn.org to register.

EXTRUDEX

The company needs about 15 employees. Its workforce is down, Scheuing believes, because of the viral pandemic and manufacturing is not really that sexy of an industry.

At its peak before the pandemic struck in March, the company had as many as 210 employees. It runs four shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s not skilled labor mostly … this approach with WorkAdvance is getting the, I’ll call them not skilled labor because more of the operations in here are considered not skilled, although I think they are very skilled individuals,” Scheuing said.

WorkAdvance will train the participants ready to enter Extrudex “and then we’ll take them and move them into extrusion experts,” Scheuing said. “We’ll do the technical training; we’re very capable of that.”

Extrudex provides custom aluminum extrusions for several industries, including industrial and residential architecture, transportation and consumer, electrical and marine products. The company also has two plants in Canada.

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