Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, speaking at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and Dayton Development Coalition’s Governmental Affairs breakfast Tuesday. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Lt. Gov. declares workforce ‘crisis’ must be addressed

The chief threats to future Ohio prosperity are demographic and workforce trends that are headed in the wrong direction, Ohio’s lieutenant governor declared Tuesday at an annual breakfast meeting devoted to exploring government affairs.

“In the last 10 years, Ohio has created 330,000 net jobs, and the size of our available workforce has shrunk by 190,000 people due to demographic changes, largely,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce- and Dayton Development Coalition-sponsored event.

“Workforce is the biggest threat, not just to Wright-Patterson (Air Force Base), but to many businesses’ growth plans,” he added.

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Relatively low workforce participation rates — a national issue, not just a state problem — have also played a role, Husted told an audience at Emerson’s Helix Innovation Center on the University of Dayton campus.

“You can’t have a growing economy and a shrinking workforce,” Husted warned.

This is a problem the Dayton Daily News has often written about, most recently with a feature story Sunday reporting that about half of Wright-Patterson’s employees are nearing retirement age — amounting to around 15,000 of the base’s 30,000 employees.

The newspaper has also long reported that manufacturers and other businesses face challenges in finding workers with the right skills. In many cases, the answer is to train and retrain workers, Sen. Rob Portman was told at a roundtable discussion at a Miamisburg company last week. 

The problem is especially acute because technology is changing the nature of work, Husted added. Some jobs that exist today may not exist three to five years from now.

Citing an IBM study, Husted said globally in the next three years, some 120 million people will need to “upscale” or “retrain” to remain employed.

“Workforce and skills are an incredibly important part of what is necessary to grow the economy,” Husted said.

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The state and cities like Dayton need to encourage migration to Ohio and then inspire people to stay, he said.

Late Monday, the coalition said it will work with the base to host a “Workforce We Need Summit in the spring of 2020” to address the workforce crisis.

“Wright-Patterson — there is no close second in the region for what it means economically,” Husted said. “Every resource and effort needs to be marshaled to make sure it stays strong.”

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