Sinclair Community College Aviation Technology students watch the control panel with Professor Steve Hanshew as student Zeke Swank flies a flight simulator lesson. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Ohio trying to keep up with demand for more educated workers

To keep up with workforce demand, the state has set a goal for 65 percent of Ohio’s working-age adults to obtain a college degree or some type of advanced training by 2025. But with six years to go, the state is still 21 percent away from that target.

Jobs in the Dayton area and around the state are becoming more technical and skilled in nature, said Stephanie Keinath, director of public policy and economic development at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. Even the manufacturing industry — which has historically been open to anyone — now needs people with the training to operate increasingly more complicated and computerized machinery, Keinath said.

Around 44.1 percent of Ohio’s 6 million or so residents aged 25 to 64 have a college degree, certificate or training in a skilled trade, according to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. That’s up nine percentage points from a little over a decade ago but still far off from the 2025 goal set by the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

“That’s been a real focus of our conversation locally really for the past several years,” Keinath said. “It’s something we’ve seen coming down the pipe.”

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Economist Emily Rolen of the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a report released in January that the fastest-growing fields in the next eight years will require post-secondary education, often master’s degrees. In fact, occupations requiring master’s degrees are expected to grow at a rate of 16.7 percent through 2026, versus 7.4 percent for all occupations, the report said.

The fastest declining jobs in the next eight years will be those with minimal entry-level education requirements that are vulnerable to automation and tech advances, Rolen said.

What’s being done

The need to boost degrees, credentials and training has led to several statewide and national efforts in recent years.

The state legislature in 2017 passed a law requiring ODHE to track and release an annual report on Ohio’s degree, credential and training rate. Last year, the state’s public universities launched a campaign called Forward Ohio that aims to increase attention, opportunities and funding for four-year schools.

Ohio is three points behind the United States as a whole, which has just under 47 percent of citizens with a post-secondary education, according to the state. There are 32 states where the rate of college degrees, credentials or training is higher than Ohio’s.

Warren County has one of the highest rates in the state at 53.5 percent 25 to 64-year-olds with a college education and Greene County isn’t far behind it at 49.5 percent, according to state records. At 24 percent, Darke County has the lowest rate in the Miami Valley and Preble County has the second lowest at 24.9 percent.

The region and Ohio need to catch up with the rest of the country or risk falling behind, said Keinath. Though the trend is heading in the right direction, Stephanie Davidson, vice chancellor of academics affairs at ODHE expressed some concern about progress being made toward the 2025 goal.

“It’s definitely been slow but it’s been steady,” Davidson said. “Unless we do something drastically different…I don’t know that there will be a huge jump.”

Eliminating issues

By 2028, the Dayton region will gain at least 6,500 more jobs in seven fields, most of which will likely require some sort of additional training, degree or certificate, according to data from the chamber of commerce.

Health care is expected to have the highest demand for new workers in the Dayton area with around 3,700 new jobs projected, according to the chamber. There could be an additional 967 jobs in information technology and 937 positions in logistics and transportation added over the next nine years as well, according to the chamber.

Doug Fecher, chief executive officer of Wright-Patt Credit Union, said there “will always be a need for college degrees.” But, Fecher, who is also the chairman of Wright State University’s board of trustees, said degrees are not the only “door to entry” to a good job.

Around two-thirds of the jobs at Wright-Patt Credit Union don’t require a college degree, Fecher said. Several of the credit union’s jobs however do require some sort of technical training or advanced certification, which Fecer said is an emerging workforce demand local university’s may need to address more in the future.

“You just cannot make it on a high school education,” Fecher said

The state has tried to lay the ground work for Ohio colleges to boost degree, certificate and training completion rates.

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In the last few years, the state has changed its funding model to encourage completion. Colleges that are able to graduate more students now receive more state financial support, Davidson said.

Among other efforts, the state has tried to bolster completion by encouraging students to take College Credit Plus courses, which Davidson said are free for high schoolers to take. College Credit Plus allows students to take college courses to earn credit before graduating from high school.

“We’re kind of trying to hit it from multiple ways with what we know helps students get through easier,” Davidson said.

ODHE has also encouraged colleges to eliminate early stumbling blocks, which Sean Creighton, outgoing president of the Southwestern Ohio Council on Higher Education said goes a long way.

Colleges are now doing a better job at placing students in the classes they need, Davidson said. While some students need calculus for their future careers, Davidson said others may be better served by a statistics class.

“Running into difficulty early on does often lead to a higher drop out rate,” Creighton said. “So it does make sense to lower those hurdles.”

‘A win-win’

Locally, nearly every school is trying to boost its completion rate.

Around six years ago, the University of Dayton rolled out a plan to simplify tuition and fees and eliminate financial surprises that prevent students from graduating on time. The plan has put UD’s six-year graduation rate on track to soon reach about 84 percent, which president Eric Spina said would place the school among the top 50 in the country for that metric.

Helping Ohio reach its goal for degrees, credentials and other post secondary training is important to UD but not its only priority, Spina said.

“Will UD be a part of the 65 percent attainment? We hope so,” Spina said. “Are we single-handedly going to see that as the focus? No. But, we want more high quality Ohio students than we’ve had.”

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Sinclair Community College has redesigned its advising and the way it helps under-prepared students, said Kathleen Cleary, associate provost for student completion. Sinclair has streamlined most of its degrees and programs so that students are “not wasting financial aid and tuition dollars on classes they don’t need for graduation,” Cleary said.

“It’s critical that we provide a talented workforce,” Cleary said. “The University of Dayton, Wright State and Sinclair are part of that talent hub and one of the reasons for that is everybody realizes the economy is dependent upon us.”

Both Sinclair and Clark State Community College are in the process of rolling out new applied bachelor’s degrees, which are focused on addressing local workforce needs. Sinclair is on track to debut a four-year degree in unmanned aerial systems and another in aviation this fall while Clark State is preparing to offer a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing technology management.

“Workers can now have access to a bachelor’s degree that brings with it opportunities for advancement and higher level skill development,” said Clark State president Jo Alice Blondin. “It’s a win-win for the employees and employers.”

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