County's skilled labor pool among nation's finest

SANDUSKY Skilled labor matters. And Erie County's skilled labor force stacks up nicel
May 24, 2010



Skilled labor matters.

And Erie County's skilled labor force stacks up nicely against major metropolitan areas as big as Dallas, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn., where the overall population is much larger.

The county boasted a total of nearly 2,300 machinists and 732 line supervisors as of May 2006, according to a recent economic study.

Alvin Lee Sr. is a skilled laborer without a job.

Lee, 67, of Sandusky, is one of hundreds of skilled laborers looking for work.

"There's no jobs in our classification," said Lee, who worked as a millwright at Delphi for about 31 years before he was forced into retirement.

The excess of skilled laborers in the county could be a good thing though, especially if county officials can attract advanced manufacturers who hunger for a skilled workforce.

Advanced manufacturing is pharmaceuticals, industrial machinery and aerospace product and parts.

Delphi Corp.'s bankruptcy -- as well as the downsizing and shutdowns of other major traditional manufacturers across the region since 1999 -- left a surplus of skilled laborers.

And that's a good thing. An advanced manufacturing firm looking to relocate or start-up new would want a reliable and experienced workforce. The sector has experienced steady job growth and employed nearly 2 million workers in 2006, up from 1.88 million in 2003.

Developing the skilled labor force further is a priority, said Rick Carson, director of the Job Store and workforce administrator for the Erie County Department of Job and Family Services.

"If employers utilize this (county), they can look at various skills and find what they're looking for," Carson said. "We work very hard with economic development to bring the workforce development to the county."

The Job Store utilizes the program Sharing Career Opportunities and Training Information, which takes employer needs and matches them with job seekers. Assisting employers with productivity enhancements and further training also is part of the program, he said.

Jesse Neri, 60, of Sandusky, worked more than 38 years as a industrial maintenance millwright. He said he has not found any work and is almost inclined to start searching for a minimum wage job.

"I'm saying you need manufacturing," Neri said. "Tourism is great, but doesn't pay your bills or taxes during the wintertime."