Weber: ‘Goal is to ensure residents have skills for good jobs’Written by Ford Weber | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Led by a resurging manufacturing sector and increased exports, Northwest Ohio’s economy outperformed much of the nation in 2012 and 2013. The economic spotlight illuminated the Toledo regional economy as multiple reports by the Brookings Institution singled us out for our increases in manufacturing and exporting. Fortune 500 companies like General Motors, Chrysler, Whirlpool, Marathon, BP-Husky and Johnson Controls were among the companies whose major investments in our region made headlines over the past two years. Moreover, several of the firms in the solar energy sector once again appear to be poised for growth after weathering turbulence in that market.
As an example of our rebound’s impact, more than 3,500 new jobs in metro Toledo’s automotive sector were created in 2013. The increased demand for good workers coincides with the retirement of many baby boomers. As a result, there are abundant opportunities in many industries for people with the right skills and good work ethics.
Sadly, too many of us in Northwest Ohio — and throughout America — are lacking either the right skills or the proper work ethic. Consequently, human capital is now critically important in almost every sector of our economy. Northwest Ohio must meet the challenge of providing a sufficient pool of good, talented workers if we are to achieve our potential.
NORED’s (Northwest Ohio Regional Economic Developmental Association members are responding to the talent challenge by working to better integrate economic development with education, skills training and workforce development. Our goal is to ensure that our residents have skills that qualify them for good jobs that are available today.
With financial assistance from JobsOhio and local funders, the economic development professionals within NORED routinely call on businesses in our communities and inquire about the level of satisfaction with the business environment, particularly the availability of skilled talent.
The information we learn regarding employment opportunities and the current and future needs of our businesses is forwarded to vocational schools, community colleges, universities, training providers and workforce development agencies. This information helps keep training programs and curricula up to date, but more importantly these agencies can work directly with employers to develop specific training programs that generate candidates with the right skills.
There are numerous innovative talent development strategies underway in Northwest Ohio today. Here are just a few:
- One of the best examples of new collaboration is the educational consortium that came together to help train workers at Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Complex. The University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Northwest State Community College, Terra Technical College, Davis College and Lourdes University partnered with the Lucas County Workforce Development Agency and Chrysler to train workers to meet the demands of a modern automotive manufacturing environment.
- Sandusky County and Hancock County are forming partnerships with manufacturers and high schools to encourage young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and the skilled trades. One of the steps in doing this is to have school guidance counselors tour manufacturing firms in order to see and hear firsthand about the careers that are available in modern manufacturing. The counselors can then share this information with their students and spur greater interest in manufacturing careers.
- The Lucas County Commissioners and Workforce Development Agency have successfully enrolled Lucas County in the ACT Certified Work Ready Communities initiative — a pilot program launched by the firm that furnishes the ACT college entrance exam. This initiative ensures that businesses know the foundational skills they demand of their employees and that job seekers understand what they know and what they need to learn in order to be successful applicants.
- ACT assesses specific jobs to determine the academic skills they require. Individuals then take a WorkKeys Assessment to determine their initial skill level in three areas: (1) reading for information, (2) applied math and (3) locating information. Instructional programs are available so that an individual can upgrade his or her skills before taking an online test that certifies the individual’s skill level.
- The individuals are then matched up with job openings on the basis of the level of skill the individual possesses and the level the job demands. The goals of the program are to link workforce development to education, align workforce development and education with economic development needs and match individuals to jobs.
- The Toledo Community Foundation, Lucas County Family Council and United Way of Greater Toledo have launched Aspire, which is based on Cincinnati’s StriveTogether Network.
Aspire begins in pre-K and extends to post-high school education and unites community partners and families around the healthy development and education of children in a “cradle to career” strategy that uses data-driven accountability to drive better results. Recognizing that so much of economic development hinges on the development, retention and attraction of human capital, NORED’s keynote speaker at our 2014 annual meeting will be Mark Lautman. Mr. Lautman is the author of “When the Boomers Bail: A Community Economic Survival Guide.” NORED’s annual meeting is March 13 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg.
We invite you to attend our annual meeting and learn more about our organization. For information and tickets, please contact NORED Administrator Jerry Arkebauer at JArkebauer@hotmail.com.
Ford Weber is president and CEO of Lucas County Economic Development Corporation and president of NORED, a 12-county nonprofit association of economic development practitioners and partners. Email him at email@example.com.
Tags: ACT Certified Work Ready Communities initiative, Aspire, BP-Husky, Brooking Institution, Chrysler, Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Complex, Cincinnati’s StriveTogether Network, Davis College and Lourdes University, Fortune 500, General Motors, JobsOhio, Johnson Controls, Lucas County Family Council and United Way of Greater Toledo, Lucas County Workforce Development Agency, Marathon, NORED (Northwest Ohio Regional Economic Developmental Association), Northwest Ohio economy, Northwest State Community College, Owens Community College, Terra Technical College, The University of Toledo, Toledo Community Foundation, Whirlpool, WorkKeys Assessment