Justin Toennis loves his new job. He was hired as an electrician two weeks ago by HAHN Automation in Hebron.
"Watching something work after I wired it up is always fun to watch," he said from the plant floor.
Toennis is a graduate of the Gateway Technical College Co-op Program.
Finding skilled workers like Toennis isn't easy for his boss, John Baines, who feels lucky to have him.
Baines' company is growing 10 to 30 percent a year.
"There's really not a great education program for skilled labor," Baines said.
Over at Milicron in Cincinnati, CFO John Francy is having the same problem.
"Getting people in the trades side," he said, "has been...one of our biggest challenges."
Captains of manufacturing, construction, health care and sales industries all say they are all hurting to hire more help.
Milicron has hired 200 people, and is struggling to find another 50 who are already up to speed.
The answer may come from Europe, and include the centuries old practice of apprenticeships.
"It makes a lot of sense," said Francy.
The idea is to start training workers as early as their junior year in high school, through co-op programs, and then bring them into the company out of high school to custom-hone their skills to match the needs of the employer.
"We're very interested in looking at the same kind of program here in the U.S.," said Baines.
Both men say skilled trades have gotten a bad rap from a society that pushes college above all else.
"It may be plenty to do a 2 year applied degree," said Baines, "with a nice strong apprenticeship. You get paid a lot faster, you don't walk out with a lot of debt. There's a lot of things that make it very attractive to people."
The European American Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Cincinnati, is hosting a Skilled Workers Conference May 16th, and is focusing on apprenticeships.
They will be discussing the European model of apprenticeships and how they might be adapted for American businesses.
For more information about the conference, or to sign up, visit
or call 513-977-8668
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