Manufacturing has always played an important role in the economic development of the Greater Cincinnati region.

Cincinnati was once known as the “Machine Tool Capital” a decade ago due to the reach and influence of the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company, now known as Milacron Holdings. Its reach extended around the world, says Sam Anand, a University of Cincinnati mechanical engineering professor.

Anand has firsthand experience of the Cincinnati Milling Machine Co.’s worldwide reach. He was born and raised in India and he says almost all the machines in India had the word Cincinnati on them.

“At that time, when I was young in India, I didn’t know Cincinnati was a city,” he says. “I knew that’s the name that’s on the machine tool but I had no clue what the name was.”

Cincinnati Milacron was the “king and the emperor” in terms of machine tools, he says. Although global competition and other factors led the company to eventually declare bankruptcy before it was brought back as Milacron Holdings, Cincinnati is quickly becoming relevant again in the manufacturing industry.

“If you look around Cincinnati in a 100-mile radius there’s a heck of a lot of manufacturing companies small and large,” says Anand.

It’s a manufacturing industry that has seen significant change in the past 100 years. “Manufacturing back then was a lot less automated and a lot more skill per individual machinist,” says Scott Schaeper, sales and marketing with RB Tool & Manufacturing Co. in Colerain Township. “For sure it was dirty.”

But manufacturing has cleaned up its reputation, says Schaeper. Now they just have to convince young adults that manufacturing is a great place for a career.

Stephen Tucker, director of Industry Partnerships with Partners for a Competitive Workforce, says, “Most of the companies in our area are suffering from an aging workforce and young folks just are not lining up to pursue manufacturing careers.

“We really want to drive young kids to these opportunities and shape the image of manufacturing in today’s economy compared to the manufacturing of old, which was seen as outdated and not very technical and very repetitive.”

The problem is that today’s parents still think of manufacturing as being outdated, low-tech and repetitive and they don’t want their children to consider manufacturing as a career, says Tucker.

Mothers, especially, don’t want their children to work in the manufacturing sector, he says. “We conducted a focus group a couple of years ago where we asked educated women in our area would they allow their kids, especially their daughters, to pursue a technical career such as engineering, science, anything to do with manufacturing and machining,” says Tucker. “And 100 percent of them said, ‘No they would advise all their kids to go to college,’ even though we have outstanding opportunities right here right now,” he says.

Tucker says Partners for a Competitive Workforce is developing strategies and programs to change that mindset. A campaign called I Made it in NKY, in partnership with the Northern Kentucky Chamber and Tri-Ed, was conducted as a way to educate the public about job and career opportunities in manufacturing industries, he says.

“When you say you ‘Made it in NKY,’ it means I made my family here, I made my career here and I also manufactured great products here,” says Tucker. “We have all these great companies here in Northern Kentucky and in Greater Cincinnati that are producing these great parts but people just don’t know about them.”

Partners for a Competitive Workforce works to align educational institutions like Cincinnati State and the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development with industry to get job seekers training with the skillsets manufacturers are looking for, says Tucker. It also works to develop strategies to build a talent pipeline of the future.

That talent pipeline is important, he says. “Right now manufacturers can’t grow their businesses or meet their orders because they can’t find enough qualified people,” says Tucker.

“We have plenty of manufacturing jobs ranging from entry level jobs to middle skill jobs to higher skill jobs that employers are having a difficult job filling,” he says. That’s because the unemployment rate is low and the people looking for jobs don’t have the necessary skills that manufacturers are looking for, says Tucker.

Schaeper says young people would learn those skills in school if they only knew how lucrative a career in manufacturing could be. “People are paying upwards of $35, $40 an hour for machinists these days,” says Schaeper.

If they can learn the skills necessary in high school or a trade school they can go right into the manufacturing businesses and make a good living without having to incur college debt, he says.

“By the time they match the college graduates they’re going to be making more money when the college graduates come out of school,” says Schaeper. “It is a very lucrative career, that’s for sure.”

Manufacturing appears to be a lucrative and exciting career opportunity in the future, particularly with the newest developments in machining tools. Those developments include making parts and devices with three-dimensional printers, also known as additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing is creating three dimensional parts and devices by building up ultrathin layers of material from a printer controlled by computer-design software. This is a change from the traditional method of manufacturing a part by removing material, also known as subtractive manufacturing.

Anand says that the newest development in manufacturing machines is a hybrid device that combines both additive and subtractive manufacturing. The beauty of the hybrid machines is that they are more efficient, he says.

“The whole idea is to reduce the set-up time,” says Anand. “You don’t want to take a part from one machine and put it on the next machine and set it up and do the next operation. You’ll do it all on one machine and reduce the set-up time.”