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Bill Expands On Budget Plan To Create 'Pre-K To Workforce System'

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Bill Expands On Budget Plan To Create 'Pre-K To Workforce System'

A bill that builds on workforce proposals included in the governor's budget will play an integral part in better preparing students for in-demand jobs, its sponsors said.

Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) and Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) told the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee Wednesday that their legislation (SB 3*) aims to "create a pre-K to workforce system to help Ohioans prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow."

The provisions in the priority measure are based on recent recommendations from the Governor's Executive Workforce Board and the Office of Workforce Transformation - some of which are also featured in Gov. John Kasich's biennial budget.

"The theme of these recommendations is to make education more responsive to our students, parents and employers by providing students the skills our employers are demanding. This is done by either developing connections between our business community and our schools, or by strengthening and broadening existing relationships," Sen. Beagle said.

Overlapping with the governor's budget, the bill establishes a pre-apprenticeship pathway for career tech students, creates a STEAM designation for schools, and develops an "OhioMeansJobs-Ready Certificate" for high school students who demonstrate work-readiness.

The legislation would also: Promote an annual Ohio In-Demand Jobs Week; give rule making authority to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to establish criteria to expedite the issuing of Certificates of Qualification for Employment; and update state law to comply with requirements in the federal Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act.

The Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education would also be required to collaborate on initiatives under the bill. Those initiatives include developing a Regional Workforce Career Counseling Collaboration model and bringing together the state's major business organizations to create professional development programs and build a strategic plan to increase project-based learning.

"The need for a skilled workforce continues to be one of the primary challenges for employers in Ohio. I hear it throughout my district as does Sen. Balderson as we engage our businesses," Sen. Beagle said. "The provisions in SB3 will work in concert with the other recommendations to the governor that are included in the executive budget to further improve all facets of Ohio's workforce system."

Unlike the bill, the governor's two-year spending plan includes OWT recommendations that would create teacher externships and require superintendents to appoint three business leaders to serve as ex-officio members on their local school boards.

Chairman Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) applauded the bill, saying he's particularly interested in pursuing pre-apprenticeship programs for students.

"Capturing the attention of some of our young folks and telling them that building things and making things is an honorable way to earn a living and you don't have to be sort of pigeonholed into an academic course that you're not interested in - that's always been something I've really valued," he said.

He asked whether the state plans to work with trade unions to identify workforce needs and create pathways for students.

Many career technical schools already have partnerships with trade unions and take the advice of workforce boards, Sen. Beagle said. The hope is that this bill would allow them to expand on that as well as encourage traditional schools to take notice of what career tech schools are doing to prepare students for the workforce.

Sen. Edna Brown (D-Toledo) said she's long supported career technical education and would like to see it receive more funding as the state begins to prioritize job readiness. She asked the sponsors if they would back sending additional dollars to vocational schools.

"Certainly anything that can provide our students with skills to make them more employable is probably worth investment. Perhaps I should leave it at that," Sen. Beagle responded. "If we have programs that really worked and employers are finding a source of workers who have the skills they need, those are things that are certainly worthy of public investment."

Sen. Balderson said he's met business owners who are willing to pay for students to take part in career tech and apprenticeship programs.

A bigger issue, he opined, is that students aren't always made aware of or steered toward training programs.

Guidance counselors who are meeting with students "and getting them on that right track - we've lost some of that," Sen. Balderson said.

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