Ohio Must Prepare For New Job Opportunities » Blog » The Buckeye Institute

This opinion piece was first published by RealClearPolicyRealClearPolicy.

As Ohio celebrates Labor Day and the men and women who work hard and get the job done, state policymakers must continue to prepare today’s workforce for economic opportunity. of tomorrow.

after hitting historical unemployment from 16.4% at the start of the pandemic, Ohio has rebounded with unemployment now less than four percent. Unfortunately, there are even fewer Ohioans in the workforce today than before the pandemic, as the state continues to struggle with global competition, declining populationand a disruptive technological shift towards a 21st century economy.

But as Ohio transitions to a more digital economy, the future looks bright.

Computer chip maker Intel recently announced that it will build a major new semiconductor manufacturing plant in central Ohio. Intel promised to invest billions of dollars to create a “The heart of silicon.” This investment will result in new jobs in high tech and other support industries. The area’s affordability and presence of multiple colleges have attracted Intel, and Ohio policymakers should take steps to ensure the state can meet Intel’s demand for skilled labor .

Already more than half of Ohio manufacturers lament the shortage of skilled labor which has hampered growth, disrupted supply chains and exacerbated order books. Policymakers can help — and they must help if Ohio is to revive manufacturing, transition to the new economy, and take full advantage of Intel’s promise and opportunity.

New employers are looking for skilled workers trained and able to perform the new tasks at hand. In the short term, Ohio should eliminate outdated professional licensing rules that make it harder to work here for qualified employees already licensed in other states. With the Buckeye Institute encouragementrestrictive licensing rules for military families and nurses have been relaxed, but more needs to be done to make it easier for other out-of-state professional license holders to move to Ohio and pursue their careers, especially in the sciences, technology, engineering and math – or STEM professions.

Ohio urgently needs computer science professors to teach the STEM courses needed to equip students with the skills Intel and other advanced manufacturing companies are looking for. Unfortunately, Ohio ranks in the lower half of states offering high school computer science courses. Ohio needs to increase high school STEM education to meet the demands of modern employers.

However, computer science education is not financially competitive with private sector employment alternatives, and current labor agreements prevent school districts from paying computer science teachers more. These realities contribute to a statewide shortage of computer science teachers.

Fortunately, when local school boards determine that a subject is suffering from a teacher shortage, school districts can attract more teachers by increasing teacher compensation for that subject. State policymakers should recognize a statewide shortage of computer science teachers and empower all public school districts to raise computer science teacher salaries as needed.

Emphasizing computer courses and professional training at all academic levels will help Ohio in the long run. Education policymakers should require all public high schools, for example, to offer at least one basic computer science course and that students take at least one such course before graduating. And as the Buckeye Institute has advisedOhio should make better use of its community colleges to prepare workers for in-demand jobs by making it easier for low-income students to access opportunity grants and transfer to traditional four-year colleges for more training.

Ohio’s labor market has struggled and overcome. And these are victories to celebrate. But other challenges with even more opportunities await you. The 21st century economy is knocking on the door, looking for a 21st century workforce with new knowledge and an improved skill set. When the opportunity presents itself, Ohio must be ready to respond.

Rea S. Hederman Jr. is executive director of the Center for Economic Research and vice president of policy at The Buckeye Institute in Columbus, Ohio.