Bryan Times: Mandel: Development of workforce is a key
By Marci Hummel | The Bryan Times
February 18, 2014
The theme of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel at Mondays roundtable discussion at Spangler Candy Co. was Ohios economy. And the key point to the discussion was workforce development: How to grow it and how to man it in northwest Ohio. Indiana, Mandel noted, is aggressively pursuing new business, and Ohio must adopt effective strategies to meet the challenge.
One of the ways to do this, he noted, is to have an adequately trained workforce. This workforce must be trained in skilled trades; a bachelor of arts degree no longer guarantees a good job.
More and more, as Ive traveled in this state, Mandel said, Im hearing from folks in manufacturing and construction and in other areas that require trades that as the baby boomers retire they cant find young people (to fill jobs) as welders, pipe fitters, electricians, carpenters, machinists and what not. I call this issue a quiet crisis because it doesnt make a lot of noise. But its a crisis.
Mandel was in Sandusky County Monday morning and said he was told there are 3,500 jobs available in the region but employers cant find people qualified to fill them.
I believe that theres an over-saturation of bachelors degrees in America, he continued. You have this whole generation of young people with four-year liberal arts degrees (that are) $100,000 in debt, and many of them are serving coffee at Starbucks or working retail from home.
Mandel said according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48 percent of people with bachelors degrees in America are working jobs that dont require a bachelors degree. He said the United States needs to get back to basics and invest in vocational training. We need to put shop class back in high schools, he said, and instill a sense of pride in young people going into these jobs ... These jobs are the backbone of our country.
Mandel suggested policy-makers talk to colleges and universities in Ohio and give them incentives to produce students who are qualified for jobs that are productive in the marketplace and not spend as much money and taxpayer resources on obtaining traditional degrees.
As a community college president I can agree with you, said Dr. Thomas Stuckey, president of Northwest State Community College. Stuckey said the demand is high for manufacturing jobs in northwest Ohio. I met an employer this morning who was upset with the college because we couldnt send him five resumes, he said. We dont have five students that are unemployed ...
Ohio Rep. Lynn Wachtmann said the business community must promote the jobs for which such training is needed. People arent going into the right careers where theres jobs available, he said.
Diamond Zimmerman, coordinator for the Williams County Economic Development Agency, said WEDCO has been addressing this issue with educators and manufacturers, specifically at its U.S. 6 manufacturers roundtable meetings at Northwest State Community College. She also discussed the Oct. 4 Manufacturing Day when school guidance counselors and superintendents spent the day touring manufacturing companies to see what the companies do and the skills their employees must have. I think it was a real eye-opener for those schools, she said.
Zimmerman said the companies provided profiles listing the skills they will need in the near future and related wage rates, which were very competitive, she added. Also, many companies now offer tuition reimbursement.
How are we doing with job growth? asked Bill Martin, chief financial officer with Spangler Candy Co.
Unemployment is down, but (Ohio) is above the national average and so its not good enough, Mandel said. I believe it will go where theres predictability and a strong financial foundation ... Were doing a lot better, but were not there yet.
Mandel and others agreed the message is the same throughout Ohio: Manufacturers cannot find the skilled workers they need.