Fed Reserve chair gets firsthand look at manufacturing training

Federal Reserve Chair Yellen takes a tour of Cuyahoga Community College's Manufacturing Technology Center with President Alex Johnson. (Photo: Tamara London/Tri-C)

There is perhaps no other person whose words influence the economy more than Janet Yellen.

That’s why a visit by the chair of the Federal Reserve to Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) on Tuesday was more than a local story — it was a national media event. Yellen toured the college’s Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) and participated in a roundtable discussion.

During the tour, Yellen – escorted by Tri-C President Alex Johnson and other college officials – observed the operation of numerous pieces of manufacturing equipment on the MTC’s manufacturing floor, including a 3D printing machine, precision measuring tools and a student demonstration of how a milling machine works.

Following the tour of the manufacturing floor, Yellen participated in a roundtable discussion on the state of manufacturing workforce development in northeast Ohio. The discussion included representatives from labor skill-development nonprofits, manufacturing companies and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Exposure to new manufacturing

During the 45-minute discussion, members of the roundtable outlined the challenges facing area companies in finding and developing new workers and the ways in which both nonprofits and educational institutions such as Tri-C are working to address those challenges.

“Manpower is the number one problem facing our industry,” said Lonnie Coleman, president of Cleveland-based mechanical contractor Coleman Spohn Corp. “Baby Boomers are retiring, and we need young workers to fill the gaps. But we’re finding it difficult to recruit out of high school, and a lot of it is simply that young people aren’t exposed to the manufacturing industry like they once were.”

Coleman Spohn is among the companies implementing more proactive recruiting and training strategies in an effort to interest young people in the manufacturing sector. Coleman views Tri-C’s Right Skills Now program as an integral part of that strategy – and an important cog in recruiting and developing new manufacturing talent throughout the region.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen with students at Tri-C’s Manufacturing Technology Center. (Photo: Tamara London/Tri-C)

“Tri-C is tied into so many people and organizations around the area,” Coleman said. “The college is very important to the companies in our space. We know Tri-C graduates will be educated and prepared to enter the workforce. And they’ll have the advanced technological knowledge that is becoming more and more important to the manufacturing space.”

During the roundtable, Yellen heard the perspectives shared by each local leader, offering follow-up questions and feedback.

“You are all hard at work making sure the systems are in place to train people and fill jobs,” Yellen said. “It is a very necessary role that must be filled in our country, and I appreciate the work you do.”

Addressing the skills gap: Tri-C President Alex Johnson will be among the leaders speaking about community college and business partnerships at a congressional briefing October 5 sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges.


About the Author

Erik Cassano
is an editorial specialist at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.