Chris Oaks spoke with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
Q: This week, you recognized Scott Wasserman of Findlay Machine and Tool as one of the initial recipients of the new “Ohio Strong” Award, recognizing the importance of skilled trades workers in the state. Explain the genesis of this program.
A: As baby boomers retire, we’re seeing a shortage of young men and women entering the skilled trades — pipe-fitters, welders, machinists, plumbers, carpenters, and so on. These are very important jobs that contribute to the strength of our state, and they don’t require a four-year degree that puts a young person in massive amounts of debt. This award program is one way we can call attention to that.
Q: Do you mean to suggest that we shouldn’t be encouraging students to pursue a college education?
A: I think we should do both. We need doctors and lawyers and people with business degrees. But we also need people who work with their hands, who have good mechanical sense, who like to build things and make things and put product out the door.
And the fact is that nearly half of college graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. We don’t do enough to let young people know that alternative opportunities do exist and that they also are viable choices for making a good living.
Q: Where do you feel that shortfall lies? Is it a lack of adequate availability of vocational programs, or a need for better promotion of the programs that already exist?
A: I think a lot of it has to do with the latter. It begins with shop classes being taken out of so many schools, which means students aren’t even given the basic introduction and opportunity to gain interest in these skills.
And, as I walk the halls of schools around the state, I see a lot of posters and materials available for students for four-year colleges and universities, but precious few for two-year trade schools and vocational programs.
Q: Is the visibility of the companies who employ those skilled trades workers a contributing factor, as well? I mean, we often hear about Marathon or Cooper Tire, but how many people are all that familiar with Findlay Machine and Tool?
A: That’s a good point. This is a family-owned and -operated business that goes back almost 30 years, but they aren’t necessarily the headline-grabbers in the community.
This is why I call it a “quiet crisis.” I visited an Ohio company the other day that builds pipe, as in pipeline for oil and gas and other industries. Last year, this company paid 60 of its welders over $150,000 (each) and they still have to reject orders from customers because they don’t have enough people to fill even more of those jobs.
My hope is that some young person attending high school in Hancock County hears about this award and realizes that this is an important, well-paying career that he or she can take pride in and something they want to learn more about.
Q: The “Ohio Strong” Award is an ongoing program. Where do people learn more about it, and about the career opportunities it recognizes?
A: At the website ohiotreasurer.gov/ohiostrong, people can learn more about this program and download nomination forms to let us know about others who deserve recognition for the accomplishments in their careers.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 419-422-4545.
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