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Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is embarking on an effort to heighten the profile of manufacturing jobs with a goal of inspiring more young people to pursue those careers.
“Right now young people are being told in high schools that the only way to be successful in America is with a four-year college degree. I disagree with that,” Mr. Mandel said. “I think that’s one of the ways to be successful, but you can also be successful and have a very nice life with a vocational education and a skilled-trade job.”
The treasurer kicked off his effort Monday in Toledo with a stop at Toledo Metal Spinning Co., where he recognized John Incorvaia, a 31-year-employee of the Clinton Street business.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mandel tours Toledo Metal Spinning, awards Ohio Strong
Mr. Incorvaia started at Toledo Metal Spinning at age 19 after spending a year driving a delivery truck. He said the job has been good to him over the years.
“You’re not going to get rich, but you’re not going to go hungry,” he said. “I've always provided for my family, and that’s the main thing.”
Mr. Mandel also believes there are solid careers to be made in manufacturing and skilled trade jobs. He wants to see more high schools bring back shop classes and urge guidance counselors to talk more about vocational schools and two-year tech programs.
“My hope is that if young people throughout the Toledo area and the state see what folks like John and others are doing to contribute to Ohio’s economy, they’ll be inspired to go into these jobs,” he said.
Mr. Mandel plans to recognize many people like Mr. Incorvaia across the state, in a campaign he is calling Ohio Strong. He said he wanted to kick off the effort in Toledo because of the city’s manufacturing history.
Toledo Metal Spinning has a long history of its own. The firm has been in business for 85 years, though it had to rebuild significantly after a 1998 fire.
One would be hard-pressed to find a company that has such a varying line of products — workers there make everything from stainless steel trash cans to components for military aerospace applications. They also make many products for the brewing industry.
Eric Fankhauser, vice president and owner of Toledo Metal Spinning, said most of his customer base is in a 750-mile radius of Toledo, though they sell coast to coast and even internationally.
The company has about 40 employees. While turnover is low, it can take a while to fill open positions, Mr. Fankhauser said. Often, he said, younger applicants either don’t seem interested in hard work or can’t pass drug tests.
Those who do make it can have a nice career, Mr. Fankhauser said.
Mr. Mandel argues that too many young Americans graduate from college and find themselves working jobs they could have landed without a degree.
“About 48 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the country right now are working jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees, which means a lot of those folks incurred debt unnecessarily,” he said.
That figure comes from a study by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, the BLS also says the unemployment rate in 2013 for college graduates was 3.7 percent, versus 7.5 percent for those with high school diplomas, and that those with four-year degrees earned a median weekly salary of $1,108 last year versus $651 for high school graduates.