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Building a Resilient Workforce

Building a Resilient Workforce: What We Learned From the Leaders of Youngstown, Ohio

Youngstown’s Mahoning Valley has suffered dual blows in recent months. In 2019, one of its largest employers, the Lordstown General Motors (GM) plant, closed its doors. In 2020, the area has been hit hard by COVID-19.

On June 19, 2020, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President and CEO Loretta J. Mester, and Youngstown-area community leaders and business owners came together virtually to discuss ways Youngstown has been helping their workforces build resiliency to better withstand shocks, including health emergencies and business closures.

President Mester moderated the discussion and provided opening remarks. She noted the importance of resiliency for workforces and the communities they support, especially during the pandemic, and that Youngstown is uniquely positioned for this conversation: “Few regions have been called on to be resilient as often as Youngstown has been,” she said.

In his introductory remarks, Chair Powell told the panelists that their “feedback can be an invaluable example for other communities with similar challenges.”

Both President Mester and Chair Powell noted the importance of the event taking place on Juneteenth during a time of renewed focus on racial injustice. "As the national discussion continues, it is critical to remember that equity includes access to education, work, and economic opportunity," Powell said.


  • Sarah Boyarko, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber
  • Jessica Borza, Executive Director, Mahoning Valley Manufacturing Coalition
  • Jamael Tito Brown, Mayor, City of Youngstown
  • Nick Chretien, Program Manager, Economic Action Group
  • Jim Tressel, President, Youngstown State University
  • Carmella Williams, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Youngstown Business Incubator; Owner and Kitchen Chemist, Carmella Marie Inc.

Key takeaways from the event

What steps have organizations taken to help the Youngstown-area workforce and community build resiliency?

  • Companies, educational institutions, political leaders, and economic development professionals collaborated on plans to diversify workers’ skills and the industries that call the Youngstown area home.
  • When the Lordstown GM plant closed, organizations supplied the GM workforce with the names of more than 100 companies with job openings as well as lists of resources for education and training opportunities. In addition, Eastern Gateway Community College provided dislocated workers with free tuition for certificate programs, and an area company donated gift cards.

How can the community use education and collaboration to build resilience?

  • Help labor forces become comfortable with lifelong learning
  • Explain the range of career opportunities available to young people in their communities
  • Develop “earn and learn” programs, such as apprenticeships
  • Work with technical centers, community colleges, universities, local government, and others to create programs that tailor worker skills to the immediate needs of local employers

What’s important to keep in mind when moving forward after the pandemic?

  • Ensuring equity for all community members
  • Helping businesses diversify their customer bases and ways to sell (online vs. in-person)
  • Keeping the workforce pipelines open through strong and accelerated training at local educational institutions
  • Continuing and expanding economic and workforce development projects to reach a broader range of residents, such as women and minorities
  • Creating pandemic-resistant workplaces; for example, making it easier to socially distance
  • Plans for remote, in-person, and hybrid learning models for educational institutions

Watch the full video of the event, which was the first in a two-part series. Stay tuned for information about part two, which is expected to take place during the fall of 2020. Learn more about building resilience in our multimedia manufacturing story.
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One of the things that gives you hope about the future is that everyone is being innovative in a very difficult situation… As Chair Powell said in the beginning, we will get through this. It’s going to be hard, but with the attitude that you all showed today, I think we definitely will do that.
—  President Mester
It’s a time of great turbulence and challenge in the country and all of that has been hitting Youngstown particularly hard. Youngstown has had its challenges,” Powell said. “You have a lot of smart, dedicated, focused people and organizations around the table thinking hard about how to make this work. That really is the pattern we have seen in our work with communities around the country. That’s what works.
—  Chair Powell

The event featured a conversation between Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President and CEO Loretta J. Mester, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Jerome Powell, and Youngstown-area community leaders, business owners, and local stakeholders.

Event Agenda:

  • Welcome and opening remarks, President Mester
  • Introductory comments, Chair Powell
  • Panel Discussion, All panelists
  • Closing Comments, President Mester and Chair Powell

Download Transcript

When and where

June 19, 2020
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Virtual Event