Like many manufacturing business owners, Michael Bohning had felt the pain of a tight labor market. Bohning bought Creative Blow Mold Tooling in 2006. The Lee’s Summit company designs, manufactures, repairs and tools products for the blow mold industry. Creative’s products end up on factory lines all over the world to help create the products found on store shelves, but despite the success of Creative, Bohning said finding qualified candidates was a challenge.
“Finding good people who want to join a winning team is not as easy as it seems,” Bohning said. “Most of these people have jobs and are not looking to make a move.”
During a meeting with the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, Bohning expressed the workforce challenges he was facing. From there, the LSEDC was able to connect him with the Lee’s Summit School District. Having participated in National Manufacturing Day, Bohning had opened the doors of his business to students before, but this time he went a step farther by working to attract entry-level workers that could fill the gap in the workforce demand.
“Unfortunately, there are many high school graduates looking for an opportunity right out of high school, but they don’t know about the opportunities in manufacturing,” Bohning said.
Bohning worked with the district to identify students who would be interested in touring the Creative shop. Students were given hands-on examples of the type of work they would do if they chose to work there. They used a 3-D scanner to create a design for a mold, assembled a mold and went through the quality-control process to inspect products.
Bohning offered students the chance to apply for a range of opportunities including a summer internships, work/study, part-time and full-time positions. Bohning said he was surprised to learn how much the school district was already doing in middle and high schools to prepare students for a career in industrial tech, but he hoped being an active participant could help overcome workforce hurdles.
The LSEDC Director of Business Development, Tina Chace said creating the connection between educators and business owners is a large part of creating workforce-ready students.
“Lee’s Summit has a unique ‘education ecosystem’ designed to produce the next generation of talent. A key component to that success is having business leaders like Michael who are willing to provide career exposure opportunities and paid internships – essentially providing a career pathway to employment. A real win-win for our community,” Chace said.
Beyond solving workforce needs, Bohning said he hopes offering students a chance to work can benefit them by providing invaluable real-world experience.
“I think it’s important to work alongside others to develop communication skills, teamwork, organization, prioritization and other skills,” Bohning said. “Applying these in the classroom is great, but applying them when you are being asked to take care of customers, complete important projects, or finishing assignments in a business or organizational setting is a different ballgame.”
Bohning planned to have applications processed by the end of May for students to begin work this summer. In the future, Bohning hopes other Lee’s Summit manufacturers will join the initiative to help create awareness and opportunities for students.