Clark State Community College students learn new skills in the welding lab. (Clark State Community College photo)

Higher Education Today: Clark State fills the skills gap

Any discussion about the economy today includes a mention of the “skills gap.” The skills gap can be defined in two ways: first, a skills gap exists when there is disparity between the skills required for a job and the actual skills that an employee possesses; second, a skills gap can refer to the collective availability of employees, either in general or specific to an industry.

Data in the Dayton-Springfield region points to the existence of a serious skills gap. According to the latest available data from ohiomeansjobs.com, the following positions are open within a 40-mile radius of Dayton: 453 machine/CNC operators, 118 welding, 1,742 banking positions, 71 insurance positions, 255 HVAC technicians, and 736 registered nurses. While this list is not comprehensive of all openings in the region, the skills gap is obvious.

Clark State Communityhas aligned its programs with the occupational needs, and has invested in its banking; insurance; information technology; cybersecurity; registered nursing; nurse’s assistant; heating, ventilation and cooling; welding; manufacturing; and agriculture programs, as well as transfer programs to its four-year university partners. Additionally, the workforce and business solutions division reaches out in the following ways to further address the gap:

• Working directly with employers to identify skills needed to increase employment and enhance the skills of incumbent workers

• Identifying the “symptoms” of low employment and crafting collaborative solutions with employers, OhioMeansJobs, regional chambers of commerce and Clark State Community College’s own student affairs offices to implement these solutions

• Forecasting and seeking input from businesses on emerging occupations and planning for the future of work

• Collaborating with higher education partners in the region to address this skills gap together, as the Dayton region is fortunate to have multiple two- and four-year colleges and universities to help address the skills gap through guided degree pathways.

Higher education is a critical player in regional economic development and better quality of life. In Mary Alice McCarthy’s 2015 study “Beyond the Skills Gap: Making Education Work for Students, Employers, and Communities,” she discussed the increase in jobs that require some post-secondary education as well as the financial and quality of life impacts of those who do not pursue such credentials.

She references a Pew Research Center study that “confirms the negative consequences for those without post-secondary education: 22 percent of young adults with just a high school diploma live in poverty today, compared with 7 percent in 1979. Not only are non-college-goers likely to be poor, they also have significantly worse health outcomes than their counterparts.”

The case for post-secondary education is clear, as the impact of higher education can result in higher earning potential as well as increased wellness. The bottom line is that higher education – particularly when a student begins with an affordable option, such as a community college – is an excellent investment in his or her future.

An often-quoted study

College recognizes the existence of a skills gap and is addressing it through degree and certificate offerings. Clark State from Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce states that 65 percent of all jobs created by 2025 will require some college but not necessarily a four-year degree.

If the southwestern Ohio region is to grow and thrive, it is imperative that organizations and entities work together in order to address this skills gap. Secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, employers and economic development entities must come together “around the data” and collaborate to address this skills gap.

Aligning programs and services in the region has never been more critical, and the Dayton-Springfield region has the innovative spirit and the collaborative infrastructure to plan for the future of work as well as address the skills needed today.

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