VOICES: Work-based training a part of Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future

In the past year, Ohio has seen a lot of victories in economic development. Companies like Intel, Honda, Amgen, Ford and General Motors have all announced significant investments in the form of expansions or new projects throughout the state. If we want to continue these victories, we need to make sure Ohio remains a strong, competitive state for business.

To ensure that happens, in October, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce unveiled its Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future, a long-term strategic plan that analyzes Ohio’s economic outlook and compares it to that of other states. The Blueprint identifies six key areas of opportunity for Ohio and outlines the steps we must take to improve them. In creating our own policy priorities, the Ohio Chamber itself will first look to the Blueprint and utilize its suggestions for years to come. Our mission is to make Ohio the best place in the world for business, and the Blueprint will help us achieve that.

In creating this report, which was commissioned from Accenture, we identified several key areas of improvement for Ohio. These areas of opportunity include: Education & Workforce; Sense of Place; Taxes & Costs; Business Friendliness; Innovation & Collaboration; Infrastructure. The first of these is perhaps the most crucial.

In my role, when I speak to Ohio business owners about their barriers to success, their most common response is the current workforce. They struggle to find talent— specifically talent that is properly educated and prepared for today’s job market.

A strong workforce signals a healthy economy and is a top priority for both businesses and people who are considering relocation.

To improve education and workforce in Ohio, the Blueprint recommends that we reduce barriers to employment, expand education and job training, grow Ohio’s population and recruit out-of-state workers, and modernize Ohio’s workforce for in-demand occupations.

In order to reduce barriers to employment, the issue of childcare must be addressed. Ohio’s infant care on average is more costly than rent. In addition, sixty percent of rural Ohioans live in “childcare deserts,” which means that there are no childcare providers available or that the few existing ones cannot keep up with the population. We can work to improve this metric by incentivizing childcare startups in rural areas and further examining childcare facility regulations to determine potential reforms.

Other issues to address when assessing barriers to employment include supporting workforce participation for individuals with a criminal record, supporting employers to increase recruitment and retention of veterans and employees with disabilities, and pursuing strategies to alleviate public assistance benefits cliffs.

The Business Education Network (BEN), a taskforce comprised of business leaders that focuses on preschool through 12th grade education policy, programs and research will help expand education and job training. The U.S. Chamber’s BEN has seen great success; the Ohio Chamber plans to support and lead its own. In addition, the Blueprint encourages employer-led work-based training, as well as the continued education and upskilling of midcareer workers.

Once these workers are properly educated, we have to ensure that they remain in Ohio to bolster our workforce rather than doing so elsewhere. An estimated 3.7 million native Ohioans have left the state for one reason or another, but they still have ties to Ohio, and we believe we can bring some of them back. Ohio has a low cost of living and a high quality of life; we must only work to foster a more attractive and supportive culture in order to retain top talent.

Once we have grown the population and improved education, modernization of Ohio’s workforce will follow. We must ensure adequate labor supply for in-demand jobs, and we must promote STEM fields at all education levels to properly prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Improving education and workforce is the first step to building Ohio’s economy and ensuring it is the best state for business. However, there are many more steps that must follow. If you’d like to see the full Blueprint for Ohio’s Future or its Executive Summary, visit ohiochamber.com/blueprint-page.

Steve Stivers is the CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

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