Friday, March 02, 2012

GUEST COLUMN: "Ohio Needs More Flexibility to Help Workforce Development"

St. Rep. Louis Terhar
By: State Rep. Louis Terhar

From the moment the 129th General Assembly was sworn into office, the primary focus has been job creation. Although we have seen unemployment in Ohio drop slightly below the national average, our job climate is still not where it needs to be. In order to help the private sector create jobs, the General Assembly has reached out to job creators from around the state to find out what their needs are and how we can become a better partner in providing long term meaningful employment to Ohioans.

Not long ago, the Ohio House of Representatives created a special ad-hoc committee that focused entirely on workforce development. The committee included members from both parties, who traveled to every corner of the state and heard from representatives of various industries.

On the positive side, employers noted that they are starting to see consumer demand rise, which provides them the incentive to begin hiring new workers. The downside, however, is that Ohio does not currently have enough skilled workers to fill positions in the manufacturing and high-tech sectors —industries that are vital for our transition into a 21st century economy.

Further, the committee discovered that the federal government could be a better partner in improving workforce development. The Workforce Development Act of 1998 was intended to help state’s target specific areas of need and provide the financial assistance to help train workers to fill positions. Unfortunately, we have found that the Workforce Development Act is highly outdated and inefficient. It has not been reauthorized since its passage and has resulted in duplication of services.

In order to better train our workers, Ohio needs a unified system that creates, collects, and reports strategic performance metrics of workforce development efforts. The state also needs more flexibility in establishing criteria for eligibility of workforce development programs.

As a member of the House Small Business and Economic Development Committee as well as the Commerce and Labor Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to achieve greater independence and more flexibility to partner with the business community to target specific areas of need. I encourage anyone who has ideas on how we can better improve our job-creation efforts to contact my office.

While we still have a long way to go, I am confident our economy will continue to improve if we can provide workers with the skills needed to excel in a 21st century economy. I want to assure you that the General Assembly is being proactive on this issue and will aggressively support the ability of Ohio workers to share in the benefits of the improving economy.