Rumors of the death of U.S. manufacturing have been greatly exaggerated. As the industry mounts a comeback in Cleveland and other cities, growing companies are discovering it's not easy to find qualified employees. In short, jobs once left for dead are now hard to fill.
In part, the skills gap exists because a generation of workers has been inculcated with the notion that manufacturing is filled with get-your-hands-dirty, dead-end jobs. On the other hand, the traditional model of high school vocational education does not do enough to meet the needs of tech-savvy manufacturers. Today's factories are as likely to be filled with computers as hulking, greasy machines, owners say.
To plug the gap, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will soon break ground on a new, 165,000-square-foot campus for Max Hayes High School
, a vocational school currently at W. 45th and Detroit. The new building will serve up to 800 students -- a one-third increase -- and feature state-of-the-art labs and new academic classrooms to prepare students for today's manufacturing jobs.
"We want to spread the idea that if you go to Max Hayes, you will get a job that can support your family," says Phillip Schwenk, Principal of Max Hayes. "Your job is relevant and it matters. We're trying to transform ourselves into a modern, global institution that really understands the needs of global industry."
The $40 million campus, which will break ground next year and is slated to be completed in 2015, will feature exposed construction elements such as ductwork, columns and steel beams to emphasize the city's manufacturing heritage. Located at W. 65th and Clark, the school will benefit from its proximity to local businesses, the partners involved believe.
"What comes out of this is a beautiful relationship with all of these businesses on the west side looking for people to work there," says Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone, who represents the Stockyards neighborhood where Hayes will be built.
Project partners include representatives from manufacturing companies as well as organizations such as WIRE-Net, a Cleveland-based advocacy group. They will come together to create the Friends of Max Hayes to support the school.
Source: Phillip Schwenk, Matt Zone
Writer: Lee Chilcote