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Gov. Kasich issues directive to determine what skills employers want from applicants

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By The Columbus Dispatch  •  Friday September 16, 2016 6:24 AM
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Gov. John Kasich

It is a constant refrain from business owners: They have job openings but can’t find the people with the right skill set to fill them.

On the other hand, workers say there aren’t enough good jobs available.

Now, Gov. John Kasich has issued an order instructing his Executive Workforce Board to find ways to remove barriers to training and employment opportunities for Ohioans who need them.

The panel will work with schools, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, labor groups and other workforce experts to make recommendations within 90 days.

The goal includes determining what skills workers need now and in the coming years to meet the demands of employers, and ensuring that training programs are there to meet these needs.

“We need a workforce system and education system that can respond to the changes and develop a skilled and productive workforce to compete in a global economy,” said Ryan Burgess, the governor’s director of the Office of Workforce Transformation.

The Executive Workforce Board, which falls under Burgess’ leadership, has 28 members, including legislators, business leaders, labor leaders and educators. Part of its mission is to support the process of forecasting the skill needs of employers.

Ohio has been steadily adding jobs since 2010 and has fully recovered the number lost during the recession, but Kasich’s challenge is to prepare current and future workers to meet companies’ changing needs.

Burgess said the board will begin work at its meeting next month.

OhioMeansJobs, a state website that posts job openings, routinely lists more than 100,000. At the same time, the state’s unemployment data officially lists nearly 300,000 unemployed people.

“Getting people from school to work is a critical thing,” said Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer of Columbus 2020, the region’s economic-development group.

Educators and employers have done innovative things in recent years to improve connecting people with work, but more common-sense steps can be taken, including for people in high-unemployment areas who might not have access to the internet to search for work, McDonald said.

“There is no one strategy that will work. We have to keep the pressure on,” he said.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is on board with Kasich’s strategy, said Dan Navin, the chamber’s assistant vice president of tax and economic policy.

“This is line with what the governor has been pushing for a while,” he said. “He wants, reasonably so, for the business community to weigh in on the workforce needs in the three-to-five-year time frame so that the state can adapt strategies for an educated workforce to provide the skills and number of people Ohio employers are going to need.”

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