High-Paying Jobs

Former Marine Takes Owens Pathway to Advanced Manufacturing Career

Justin Bennett

Justin Bennett

Justin Bennett was looking for a career change to help better his life.

The former Marine found it at Owens Community College in a program now known as the Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship, formerly FAME, on the Findlay-area Campus.

Owens is committed to offering advanced manufacturing programming, with the new $10 million Dana Center for advanced manufacturing training a featured facility on the Toledo-area Campus.

Bennett, 28, took classes on both campuses before graduating with his Associate of Technical Studies degree in Applied Engineering in May 2021.

The “program is one of the best things to happen in Hancock County,” said the 2012 Findlay High School graduate who’s married with two children. “There are younger guys right out of high school and guys a little older like myself who want to better themselves and create that career path. (Owens) is the gateway.”

Open to men and women, the Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship was created through a unique partnership including local companies from Hancock County, Hancock County’s economic development organization Raise the Bar and Owens. Students earn while they learn as the companies hire the students, pay for at least half of their tuition and fees at Owens, and employ them a minimum of 24 hours a week at a competitive hourly wage.

The collaborative partnership is known as the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (RAMP). The list of partnership companies may change depending on what companies are hiring but the most recent partners were Ball Metal, Cooper Tire, DS Brown, GSW, Freudenberg – NOK, Graham Packaging, Kalmbach Feeds, Hitachi Astemo (formerly Nissin Brake Ohio), Rowmark, ZF and Simona PMC, which employs Bennett.

The Dana Center is open to all students seeking degrees or certificates in a variety of in-demand programs, including Applied Engineering, Building Maintenance, Computer-Aided Drafting, Electrical, HVAC, Machining, Mechanical, Mechatronics, Plumbing/Pipefitting, Robotics/Programmable Logic Control and Tool and Die. Apprenticeships also are available.

Before the Dana Center opened, Owens housed the advanced manufacturing and skilled trades academic programs in many buildings across the Toledo-area Campus. Bringing these areas together in one space, the Dana Center allows for collaboration and cross-functional learning in a modern facility reflecting modern manufacturing companies.

The Dana Center’s award-winning design includes natural daylight, glass walls and polished floors, culminating in a clean and safe learning environment.

As the region’s workforce education leader, Owens has a dedicated facility in the Dana Center to help produce job-ready workers. According to labor data from July 2021, advanced manufacturing workers in Lucas, Wood and Hancock counties earn $69,000 annually on average.

“The Manufacturing Institute just updated its analysis on the advanced manufacturing workforce and the data indicated that by 2030, 4 million jobs need to be filled nationally but nearly half of those could be left unfilled if we do not inspire more students to pursue advanced manufacturing careers,” said Quinton Roberts, Owens Dean of Workforce and Community Services. “We want a more inclusive workforce to consider these high-paying, advanced manufacturing careers. Veterans like Justin are helping address the shortage. We need more students in these educational and training pathways for long-term success right here in northwest Ohio.”

On the Findlay-area Campus, manufacturing apprentices form a cohort, attend class two full days a week and follow a curriculum of “learn it, do it, apply it and tell it” with safety emphasized at each phase.

The Owens “program focuses on the maintenance tech side of manufacturing but you also develop skills on the business side,” Bennett said. “You learn how to work on the floor but you also learn how to speak on behalf of your department, whether that be a safety topic or something in general.”

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Published September 2021