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Creating a Talent Pipeline Requires Collaboration

By Ryan Burgess State of Ohio
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, addressing the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board.

Manufacturers, and all businesses throughout Ohio, are looking for talent to compete in a global economy that is rapidly changing. With these changes comes the need for better collaboration between businesses and education and training providers.

This could not be truer than in the manufacturing industry in Ohio. Manufacturing is the largest of Ohio’s major sectors, based on gross domestic product, at 17% followed closely by transportation and trade at 16%. Ohio’s manufacturing sector employs 694,000 people, leading the nation in the production of plastics and rubber, steel, autos, and electrical equipment.

Competition, both domestic and foreign, is always a factor, but the biggest contributors to the disruption of manufacturing jobs in Ohio are technology and automation. Ohio manufacturers produce twice as much output as they were 50 years ago with half as many workers. In addition, Ohio has the second highest number of industrial robots in the US, 20,400, in operation across the state.

With this level of automation comes greater productivity, which has many economic benefits, but automation can also disrupt families and communities. For this reason, it is imperative that Ohio’s businesses and educational providers collaborate to help Ohioans up-skill and re-skill.

Gov. John Kasich continues to prioritize transforming Ohio’s workforce to prepare for the “tsunami” of technological change. In September 2016, he challenged his Executive Workforce Board to identify ways to prepare and retrain Ohioans. Gov. Kasich included many of the board’s recommendations in the FY18-19 State Budget, and those became priority projects for the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation.

Ohio businesses have consistently reported a lack of “soft skills” among job applicants, so Ohio has created a way to formally recognize high school students who have the professional or soft skills required for success in their professional lives, called the Ohio Means Jobs-Readiness Seal.

To earn the seal, students must demonstrate proficiency in the top 15 professional skills identified by business leaders, including reliability, work ethic, punctuality, and creativity. To demonstrate proficiency, students work with three or more mentors from school, work, and the community to document how they have demonstrated the 15 skills. Mentors are trusted adults who, by signing the form, recommend the students.

Applied Bachelor’s Degrees

Too often, businesses have to completely re-train recent college graduates because our education system is not aligned with the needs of businesses. A program was created to allow students at community colleges to receive Applied Bachelor’s Degrees designed with input from local businesses. This type of degree provides students with a lower-cost option and strengthens Ohio’s ability to meet workforce demands.

When businesses present an unmet need to community colleges in their region to develop pertinent curriculum, they can create a partnership. This effort is just being launched in Ohio and, as of June, five programs in the areas of land surveying, culinary and food science, unmanned aerial systems, aviation technology/professional pilot, and microelectronic manufacturing are going through the approval process.

Gov. Kasich is a vocal supporter of work-based learning in all its forms—internships, co-ops and apprenticeships. In June 2017, high school students became eligible to pursue a new pathway that aligns College Credit Plus, a program that allows high school students to earn college credit, with recognized pre-apprenticeship programs. Through this pathway, high school students can earn credit simultaneously toward high school graduation, an apprenticeship program and a two- or four-year degree.

Within the Pre-Apprenticeship Program, students learn technical and job-readiness skills to prepare them for career pathways after high school. Now, through the alignment with the College Credit Plus Program, students can also earn college credit for their pre-apprenticeship experience. This program gives students multiple on-ramps and off-ramps for their selected career pathway and reinforces the message that apprenticeship programs and college education are not mutually exclusive.

College Credit Plus is in its second year and has already helped more than 117,000 Ohio high school students earn college credit, while preparing them for the next step in their careers. To date, the program has saved Ohio families more than $262 million in tuition.

Business Advisory Councils

Businesses must be engaged with local education providers to shape the educational experiences of students in Ohio’s schools. Business Advisory Councils (BACs) can convene locally to facilitate better alignment and communication between business and education. Ohio law now requires every school district and educational service center to have a BAC.

To achieve these goals, BACs, comprised of local business leaders, advise their local school districts on changes in the job market and areas in which future jobs will most likely be available. They also advocate for the employment skills most critical to the industry, develop a curriculum to teach these skills and offer suggestions for creating relationships between businesses, labor organizations and educators. BACs give businesses a hands-on opportunity to prepare and train students with the appropriate skills.

The Regionally Aligned Priorities in Developing Skills (RAPIDS) program is another example of how Gov. Kasich is working to achieve greater collaboration between business and education. The RAPIDS program awards post-secondary institutions with grants to help purchase equipment aligned with specific regional workforce development needs as stated by local businesses. The focus areas for this program are advanced manufacturing, cyber security, healthcare and environmental safety.

The RAPIDS program has received investments of $8 million across the state to prepare students for existing and emerging jobs.6 Fourteen universities, 22 community colleges, and 16 Ohio technical centers have participated with over 136 statewide business partners in occupations with projected employment growth of up to 30%.

For example, Marion Technical College received RAPIDS program funding to create a manufacturing centered mobile training lab to help local manufacturers train employees without shutting down a production line. The lab teaches students about computerized systems before they enter the manufacturing industry.

Industry Leadership

Although state policies can be developed to address workforce issues, workforce development is most effective when driven locally by business and community leaders. The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) encourages manufacturers to invest in industry-sector partnerships that encourage a consistent statewide approach but are executed at the local level.

OMA helps manufacturers aggregate their hiring needs and challenges to shape Ohio’s manufacturing workforce agenda, and OMA communicates these needs to partners in education, workforce, and economic development to ensure that the industry’s needs are met. This organic, grass-roots movement is active in nearly every part of the state. Sector partnerships drive alignment across state and local partners from education, economic development, workforce, and industry while collectively addressing priority issues, holding the system accountable and strengthening the community.

The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation is working hard to create long-lasting connections between businesses including Ohio’s manufacturing industry and educators to prepare Ohio for the future of work and automation. By focusing on up-skilling and re-skilling Ohioans, we can create a culture that encourages continuous learning and build a strong future talent pipeline.

Burgess is director, Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation

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