LIMA — Over the past four years, MakerFest has been an innovative way to change the perception of the Lima region and workforce, according to Doug Arthur, Program Director of Link Lima/Allen County.
MakerFest, a Link Lima workforce initiative of Greater Lima Region Inc., is a three-day event for local talent to connect with employers in the manufacturing, healthcare, service industries and skilled trades fields.
Arthur discussed the outcomes of MakerFest and how residents and employers can improve workforce development in the region during the Public Officials Dialogue Wednesday at the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.
This year there were 1,226 students who participated and 503 adult job seekers which is 153 more than in 2017. There were also 291 volunteers which is 105 more than in 2017.
A total of 20 students received $500 career credits which is money students can use for for furthering their career such as books, tools, tuition, accessories, etc.
There were also 26 “Proudly Made In The Greater Lima Region” plaques that were handed out to manufacturers at MakerFest. The plaques were constructed by Apollo students.
“This will hopefully become an artifact that people will proudly put up on their wall along with their other trophies,” said Arthur during.
Talent from Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh expressed their interest in attending MakerFest, said Arthur.
In the years to come, Arthur expects more talent, volunteers and employers to participate and knows that space may become a problem. The Allen County Fairgrounds, he said, may be a potential place to host MakerFest in the future.
Although MakerFest has been successful at retaining and recruiting talent into the Greater Lima Region workforce, Arthur said that the community has to do more.
“The labor market is catastrophically huge and we have not done a very good job over the last 30 years preparing for all of the people who want to retire and having young people to take their spots,” said Arthur.
Nationally, Arthur said, there are more openings now than there are people to take jobs.
The biggest challenge that Lima employers expressed when it comes to hiring is people cannot pass their drug tests. When area employers were surveyed and asked why it was challenging to hire new people, they said it was because prospects had a negative view of Lima.
Arthur said it is a big deal when jobs cannot be filled, and especially those with major players like Ford, Honda, the Lima Tank Plant, Nutrien, Procter & Gamble. By 2020, it is expected that Lima will have 2,200 available jobs, according to Arthur.
“If they can’t fill their labor needs here, they will move, and we don’t want them to move,” said Arthur.
Arthur believes thinking outside of the box and promoting the assets of the community will help employers better recruit talent in the area. In order for that to be successful, he said that everyone in the community has to get involved.
“We have to make this region more attractive and we have to do things that the community would be proud of,” said Arthur. “I want students to know it’s okay to go away for school, but once they graduate, they should come back and help contribute to the economy here.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.