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‘Tsunami’ of job disruption coming, Kasich, Alphabet chairman warn

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich warns there’s a tsunami coming.

And, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of technology giant Google and other ventures, does not disagree with the forecast.

Ohio must better position itself, and align its education systems, to better prepare its residents for the increasingly complex, technology-intertwined jobs of the future, they said.

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The two men spoke for about 75 minutes Friday evening before a crowd of about 250 people in the Ohio Union at Ohio State University as Schmidt accepted Kasich’s offer for a public chat.

New Albany’s Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer of L Brands Inc., also contributed to the discussion of the job skills needed for the future in his role as moderator.

“Now we face this huge issue ... it is a giant workforce issue and I kind of think of it, honestly, as a tsunami,” Kasich said. “We have a tsunami of possible job disruption in our country. I am afraid we have a wave coming at us we are not prepared for — not prepared enough.”

Schmidt, the one-time CEO of Google, said there are plenty of jobs available in the Midwest, but not enough people have the education and technological skills to fill them. “We need to fix that,” he said.

“We love the status quo and that is what will begin to do us in,” the governor said. “The education complex is highly resistant to change. And, who pays the price? Our kids.”

The governor said he will meet Monday with the chief executives of many of Ohio’s leading businesses to ask them what jobs are going to disappear, which jobs are going to emerge and how the state can adapt its education systems and workforce training programs to produce qualified workers.

Wexner, a long-time Ohio State trustee and a huge financial contributor to the university, expressed disappointment that OSU has not moved quickly enough to offer financial incentives to its faculty to commercialize research and ideas and roll them out to the marketplace.

“Beating on them hasn’t worked,” he said. ”‘We’re not going to pay you to do nothing.’ ... We would do better with incentives.”

Schmidt said over the next two decades, the “most interesting jobs will be humans and computers working together,” including the use of robots to do hard and dangerous work now performed by humans. Alphabet’s ventures “think about humans and computers making each other stronger,” he said.

Schmidt complimented Columbus, saying it is attracting business-world attention, in part, due to a “resurgence of entrepreneurship” and a core of educated young adults. It needs, though, more money — more venture capital to help advance bold new ventures and ideas, he said.

“Our biggest challenge here in the Midwest is to be risk takers,” Kasich responded.

The billionaire also offered some life advice to the Ohio State students in the audience. Persistence and hard work are keys to succeeding in life, Schmidt said.

“At the end of the day, the perspiration is far more important than the genius.”

Kasich has said he continues to lobby Schmidt to locate a Google expansion and its high-tech jobs in Ohio to join the likes of Amazon’s data centers in the Columbus area and Facebook’s move to build a $750 million data center in New Albany.


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