MOUNT VERNON – Over the course of the pandemic manufacturers have faced a series of challenges but one of the most pressing is an unprecedented shortage of workforce.

Knox Pages Report for America reporter Emma Davis recently turned a four-part series on this very topic.

In response to their search for talent, a coalition of Knox County manufacturers and the Knox County Workforce Development Alliance (WorkDev) program are launching a pilot certification program called Knox ASPECT, which is designed to prepare interested candidates for careers in manufacturing by teaching necessary skills for the industry.

The payoff for the participants is that any candidate who successfully completes the six classes will have a guaranteed job interview with participating Knox County based manufacturers, all of whom are seeking to hire for open positions.

“The past 18 months have been exceptionally challenging,” said Stephanie Burson, Strategic Initiatives Manager for Ver-Mac Industries. “The local manufacturing workforce shortage is something that Ver-Mac has struggled with for years. We are excited to participate in a program that will have a part in trying to solve a growing issue in our community.”

Valarie Price, Business Director for Coyne Graphic Finishing, said manufacturing jobs in Knox County are being created faster than they can be filled.

“Knox County has a competitive labor market and we are all fishing from the same pool for employees,” Price said. “We don’t have the luxury of pulling from a metropolitan workforce. It would be best to have residents from our community finding jobs in the manufacturing industry.

“Knox ASPECT will allow manufacturers to be involved in the development of future talent within Knox County, instilling soft skills that are so valuable to any manufacturing business.”

The pilot program will meet at the Knox County Ohio Means Jobs Center on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in October. The program will focus on a variety of topics ranging from technical skills and safety to soft skills and financial literacy and will be taught by industry experts.

Students will also take a strengths finding assessment to learn about their unique strengths and how those can apply to a career in manufacturing.

After completing the six ASPECT career readiness classes, students will move into the job skills portion of the program where students will receive professional help as they create a resume and prepare for their in-person interviews. The final night of the program is dedicated to the in-person interviews with the participating manufacturing companies.

For more information about the program visit the Knox County Area Development website:

Anyone interested in applying for the program should visit the Ohio Means Jobs Knox County website and click on the application link on the front page.

“Manufacturing is Knox County’s largest sector and provides the fuel for our local economy,” said Jeff Gottke, President of the Knox County Area Development Foundation. “Knox County is lucky to have forward looking local businesses and groups like WorkDev, who are looking to find creative solutions to solve modern problems that will maintain our high standard of living.”

Knox County has hundreds of unfilled manufacturing jobs, drastically affecting an essential industry that comprises 22% of the County’s economy. Across Ohio manufacturing is the leading industry accounting for 17% of the state’s GNP. To support the industry that helps fuel our communities, ASPECT aims to connect Knox County residents to high-quality manufacturing jobs that are close to home.

The pilot program has been in development for six-months and will be funded by the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Columbus State Community College (MEP at CSCC).

“The Ohio MEP program exists to support manufacturers as they grow and face challenges,” said Jeff Spain, Director of the MEP at CSCC. “Workforce is a challenge that every manufacturer is facing.

“The opportunity to help pilot a program like Knox ASPECT and create a talent pipeline for those manufacturers is exactly the kind of opportunity we were excited to support.”

About WorkDev

Coordinated by the Area Development Foundation, WorkDev is a group of professionals in Knox County that are committed to identifying workforce issues and actively creating solutions through communication, education, and collaboration.

About Knox County Area Development Foundation

The Area Development Foundation acts as the central clearing house for all economic development in Knox County. ADF’s mission is to create high quality/good paying jobs, match good employers to job-ready workers, and advance efforts to support livable communities throughout Knox County.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *