Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, during a visit to Findlay on Tuesday, described administration proposals to fix the worker shortage in Ohio. The administration envisions a three-pronged program, he said. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By LOU WILIN

STAFF WRITER

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was in Findlay on Tuesday as part of a statewide swing to seek support for proposals to fix the worker shortage threatening Ohio’s economy.

Husted, Gov. Mike DeWine’s point man for the problem, needs the Legislature’s votes for the spending proposals.

Husted called the worker shortage Ohio’s biggest and most vexing challenge, in an interview Tuesday with The Courier’s editors.

“It’s a demographic problem that we have over the next 10 years, a situation where we’re going to lose more people from our working age workforce than we’re going to gain,” he said.

More Ohioans will turn 65 years old than turn 18 years old during the next decade, threatening to deepen the workforce shortage.

Further complicating matters, the economy is changing and technology’s pace of advancement is accelerating. So required workforce skills are also changing.

The workforce shortage is a problem nationwide. The state that figures out how to help companies fill their staffing needs will become a magnet for economic growth.

Husted is proposing a three-pronged fix:

• “Tech Cred” would be an initiative to boost the skills of 10,000 people per year who already are in the workforce. Up to $2,000 of the expense to train and “upscale” each worker would be reimbursed by the state.

Most people who will be working five or 10 years from now are already working, but the nature of the work will change. Workers’ skills will need to be upgraded to meet the new technology, Husted said.

His example: A factory worker’s job could be replaced by robotics in a few years. Instead of the worker becoming unemployed, he could attend training at night or on weekends to gain certification as a robotics maintenance technician.

In that scenario, the employee could go from a $16-an-hour job to a credentialed job earning $26 to $28 an hour, Husted said.

The DeWine administration is proposing spending $15 million per year for the program.

• Increasing the number of students earning industry certifications at high schools and career centers. Husted wants to encourage more students to pursue careers in higher-demand occupations, like auto mechanics, CNC machine operators, cybersecurity specialists, welders and others.

“We would help pay for the tests, help make sure the teachers are trained and (set) up more of the programs that employers need,” he said.

“It’s about getting more students into these programs, getting them the industrial credentials they need and helping to create more financial incentives inside our (kindergarten through 12th grade) system to see that happen.”

The DeWine administration wants to spend $50 million — $25 million in each of the next two years — to help schools set up programs and fund certification tests, he said.

• Husted is proposing spending an additional $12 million on the Choose Ohio First STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Scholarship to create 5,000 more STEM graduates from Ohio’s two- and four-year institutions.

The move would be designed to keep young talent in Ohio, preventing a “brain drain.” Studies say that most who graduate from an Ohio school, stay and work here, he said.

In addition, STEM-related jobs pay 25 to 33 percent more than other jobs, Husted said.

“We’re channeling these dollars toward in-demand occupations and skills, things that we know employers actually need and are hiring,” he said.

“We should subsidize things that we need more of in our economy and that are really in demand.”

Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin

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