Ohio Faces Shortage of Skilled Workers

July 03, 2011 | The Columbus Dispatch |  Link to article

A new study from a Washington policy-research group predicts that Ohio will struggle to find skilled workers to fill new jobs during the next decade, a projection that is in line with Ohio universities' expectations that the number of high-school graduates will fall.

The report by the Center for Law and Social Policy, which advocates for low-income people, says the number of Ohio high-school graduates is expected to decline 9.3 percent from 2010 to 2020, while national numbers are expected to hold constant.

The group concludes that it will be vital to the state's economy for adults to have access to college to make up the shortfall, but federal and state programs that could assist low-income workers' return to college are being cut, said Vickie Choitz, a senior policy analyst with the center.

"The bottom line: If we had enough academically prepared young people coming through, we'd have a whole different story," Choitz said. "The implication is Ohio really needs to invest in adults who are in the work force now, and 'skill them up.'"

Ohio is the victim of its demographics: an aging population with little growth. Fast-growing states such as Texas, Arizona and Florida, with influxes of young Latinos who have larger families, are not expected to face a decline in high-school graduates, Choitz said.

Columbus State Community College will be among the local institutions marketing to students ages 24 or older in the coming years, spokesman David Wayne said.

More than half of its 28,500 full- and part-time students in 2010 were in that age range, he said. The college has campuses Downtown and in Delaware County.

"We do know that the number of high-school students will be declining in Ohio in the coming years," Wayne said. "We are looking at nontraditional students to make up an even larger share of our students."

Ohio University and Ohio State University also have released growth plans aimed at older students instead of concentrating solely on adding more in-state freshmen.

The study projects that between 2008 and 2018, Ohio will add more than 150,000 jobs requiring a college education while creating only 29,000 jobs requiring a high-school diploma or less. By 2018, more than half the jobs will require some postsecondary training, the center says.

Ohio is one of 20 states and Washington, D.C., where the numbers of high-school graduates are projected to fall 5 percent or more. 

Employers will either leave Ohio, import workers from other states and countries, or invest in training their local residents, Choitz said.

The center is opposed to the federal government's decision to cut the summer Pell Grant program, which saved $4 billion, because many older college students take classes in the summer.

"For adult students especially, once they start going to school they just need to keep going to school," Choitz said.

The federal government is also considering cutting Pell Grants to less-than-half-time students, and tightening the needs analysis, which could cut out students who are also working to support families, Choitz said.

The study projects that between 2008 and 2018, Ohio will add more than 150,000 jobs requiring a college education while creating only 29,000 jobs requiring a high-school diploma or less. By 2018, more than half the jobs will require some postsecondary training, the center says.

Ohio is one of 20 states and Washington, D.C., where the numbers of high-school graduates are projected to fall 5 percent or more. 

Employers will either leave Ohio, import workers from other states and countries, or invest in training their local residents, Choitz said.

The center is opposed to the federal government's decision to cut the summer Pell Grant program, which saved $4 billion, because many older college students take classes in the summer.

"For adult students especially, once they start going to school they just need to keep going to school," Choitz said.

The federal government is also considering cutting Pell Grants to less-than-half-time students, and tightening the needs analysis, which could cut out students who are also working to support families, Choitz said.

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