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Area business leaders visit Centerville students to stress the need for skilled workers

Thousands of jobs in Ohio are going unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers, so the Centerville school district came up with a plan to make sure students are aware of the opportunities.

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Most well-paying jobs already require more than a high school degree, pointing to a critical shortage of workers for those jobs. Nearly 72 percent of Ohio’s 51,220 in-demand occupations paying a median annual wage of $40,000 or more required a credential beyond high school, according to previous reporting by the Dayton Daily News, which has investigated the future of Dayton’s economy.

Officials worry new businesses won’t locate in the state if they can’t find the workers they need here.

Pay levels are driven by educational attainment. The median annual pay for Ohioans aged 25 and over who have a bachelor’s degree is $21,204 more than someone with a high school degree or equivalent, according to the U.S. Census’ 2017 one-year estimate.

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A panel of industry leaders came to Centerville High School recently to tell hundreds of students about opportunities in the workforce and the education and experience needed to fill those roles that are open.

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Erik Collins, the director of Montgomery County Community and Economic Development, echoed those thoughts, saying his organization’s goal is to “build a workforce pipeline throughout the region. Hopefully, some of these kids today will get excited about these opportunities.”

Panelists like Mike Bozzo, a CHS graduate and president of T&R Welding Systems Inc., connects with students and recent graduates as help for their future business needs.

“Skilled trade is an area of growth in this country,” Bozzo said during the presentation. “I’m having a hard time finding quality welders and metal fabricators to work for me, so now I’m trying to find younger people who want to get into this and training them.”

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Recent CHS graduate Gary Tesmer, who is interning at Kadant, also shared what he’s learned with current students, emphasizing the “need to bring respect back to people who work with their hands.”

In addition to hearing about job opportunities and training, students also learned about the importance of soft skills, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving, work ethic, flexibility and adaptability, and interpersonal skills, which are an important part of preparing for the workforce, according to Aaron Ferris, supervisor for Montgomery County Youth Career Services.

“Soft skills are what employers are looking for in anyone looking for employment opportunities,” Ferris said. “You need to hone in on these skills right now as you look toward the future.”

Students, like junior Hannah Nickoson, had a chance to ask questions about the type of experience or education necessary for various career fields.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this,” Nickoson said. “I had no idea all the opportunities that were out here, especially the welding or electric stuff, and it grabbed my attention. I wasn’t expecting that.”

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