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MVMC to focus on inclusion

WARREN — The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is on the cusp of launching a series of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for its members and community partners in a targeted multi-pronged approach.

“Our focus is on increasing diversity focus with outreach activities in the community; increase diversity, equity and inclusion awareness among manufacturers; and increasing DEI action among manufacturers,” Allison Engstrom, project manager, MVMC, said.

“So what that really boils down to is being intentional and thoughtful with what we do in the community and then also trying to raise awareness of the importance of DEI initiatives among our manufacturers and helping them see all of the different ways they can take tangible action,” she said.

The effort is funded with a $250,000 Industry Sector Partnership grant from the Ohio Department of Development.

It builds upon an earlier grant of the same kind MVMC used on membership and youth outreach.

“But to do it now through the lens of DEI focus, to make sure we are really identifying those community groups, partners, school districts that could really benefit from hearing our messaging,” Jessica Borza, MVMC executive director, said.

The yearlong programs will include producing educational content and providing professional development opportunities for members through workshops with guest subject matter experts and other DEI training.

MVMC also will help companies identify tangible DEI actions they can take to make the regional manufacturing workforce more reflective of the local community.

“We have had discussions with the board over the course of the past year or so about the importance of DEI and how we would want to approach it as an organization, and so there has been a commitment and we wanted to make sure when we did, we did it right. And when this grant opportunity presented itself, we felt like this would give us the resources to do just that,” Borza said.

Some of the work so far with community groups includes partnering with the YWCA Mahoning Valley and OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology to produce a manufacturing camp for middle school girls this summer.

MVMC has also met with the state agency Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities to offer training for members to be more inclusive employers and the local Inspiring Minds for an after-school programming to raise awareness around manufacturing careers.

For member manufacturers, the focus is split into two parts.

One, professional development opportunities “to help them really to understand what are the best practices in this space, what are the leading companies across the nation doing and how can we take part in that,” Borza said.

Part two is tangible actions.

“So how can we help manufacturers understand how to plug into things that we are already doing, like Work Advance or being part of our ambassadors program to go out and speak to schools, but now go to speak to some of these underrepresented communities,” Borza said. “Let it be a thought-starter for them about ways they can take tangible action toward a set of DEI goals that we’ll set for ourselves with MVMC.”

The organization plans to reinvigorate and expand its DEI committee, include more DEI topics in its bi-monthly electronic newsletter and ask members to complete a DEI survey.

“We’ll take a look at the survey responses and then we’re essentially going to create a pledge our members can sign to say they are planning to support our DEI action and initiatives,” Engstrom said.

MVMC would be the DEI resource base for members. Already, the group has researched and gathered what’s being done by the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the Manufacturing Institute to share with member manufacturers.

Also part of the program is development for MVMC staff, who will take DEI training put on by the Raymond John Wean Foundation in Warren later this year, Engstrom said.

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