PIQUA — The changing workforce in Ohio and qualifications for employment are challenges business owners face every day. The state is hoping the TechCred program will provide training for current and future workers for employers.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted led a roundtable discussion on the program at Edison State Community College Monday afternoon.
“I don’t need to tell anyone in this room that the lack of talent can be an inhibiting factor for economic growth. When you have sustained low unemployment rates, this is always an issue. This was an issue in the late 1990s. People will say this comes and goes, and as soon as the economy isn’t as strong as it is now, this will fix itself. I would content to you that that is not going to be the case this time because of the demographic challenge we face and primarily because of the introduction of new technologies into the workforce. Those two combined will make this a challenge and an opportunity for our foreseeable futures,” Husted said.
The Ohio TechCred program gives employers the opportunity to upskill current and future employees in the technology-infused economy. The state will reimburse approved applicants up to $2,000 per credential when current or prospective employees complete eligible technology-focused credentials. As of right now, there are 379 credentials the program will fund, and the program is in the process of completing its second round of awarding credentials. The goal is to upskill 10,000 people a year.
According to a study by IBM, there are 120 million people globally who will have to be upskilled within the next three years in order to keep their current jobs.
“Most of the people who are our future workforce are already in our workforce, but may not have the kind of technical skills that you need to tackle the innovations that are occurring in your marketplace,” Housted said. “We have to align our investments, our educators, our workforce training programs and our employers to get them all working together in a more collaborative fashion, because those that collaborate together, win.”
The state is made up of different economic regions, and in some places the problem is more acute than others. According to Husted, the Dayton and Columbus areas are a little bit ahead of the rest of Ohio, as are many regions with a younger workforce.
“If you’re an employer and your employees are averaging 55 years of age, you may have a forthcoming problem as you look to make sure you have a workforce in the future,” Husted said. “We want to help you be part of the solution to those challenges.”
Husted then opened the discussion to economic developers and leaders in the area.
“When it comes to tech cred, is there a way you can communicate back how you signing up who’s moving forward in that program? Because we could push that out to our other local industries and some of them aren’t always going to lead, but sometimes they’ll follow,” Executive Director of Sidney-Shelby County Economic Partnership Jim Hill asked.
“Right now with Edison, Midmark has 10 people in the C&C program, so they’re taking advantage of it. Stillwater Technologies has four in advanced manufacturing systems and two in help desk certificates. Crane Pump Systems has two in the C&C programs,” Husted said. “These are things that are offered here at Edison that you can take advantage of, and the number one certification is in Microsoft and Oracle.”
Husted also highlighted using programs to upskill workers so that they can work with the technology that threatens to replace them in the workforce.
“One of my favorite examples to use is a land surveyor. Some of those jobs are going away due to drones. I know they have a drone program at Sinclair, and in six weeks you can get certified as a drone pilot for $1,750. You move from a land surveyor who’s occupation was threatened by technology, to someone who has the skills who can then transition their previous occupation into a new occupation, doing similar kind of work. Technology is displacing certain people and certain occupations, but they can easily be upskilled to go and do the next generation of their occupation thanks to these training programs,” Husted said.
A total of 234 companies were awarded $2.2 million in October 2019. According to Husted, for every $1 of public money put into the TechCred program, the private sector has been putting in more. When the program was initially introduced they had 150 credentials awarded, which was expanded when they received applications for credentials that weren’t on the original list.
When it comes to the continuation of the program, Husted said that as long as there is a problem filling positions that need skilled workers, he and Gov. Mike DeWine will work toward a solution, whether it be funding the TechCred program or creating more credentials.
“As long as the governor and I are in these jobs and we see this need, we will continue to ask for the funding from the legislature to do this. It’s geared toward funding 10 thousand credentials a year, that’s our goal. I think we can get there, but we will continue to learn,” Husted said. “We don’t want to pay for enrollment, we want to pay for completion, because that’s on the employer to pick a good person who’s going to see it through and it’s not just going to be for nothing.”
The roundtable included input from American Trim, Apprentice Ohio/Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Crown Equipment, Darke County Economic Development Office, Dayton STEM Workforce Program, French Oil, Miami County Economic Development Office, Miami Valley Career and Technical Center, Kettering Health, the City of Piqua, Piqua Economic Development Office, Shelby County Economic Development Office, Troy Fire Department, the Upper Valley Career Center, as well as Edison State leaders.