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1 Economic and Small Business Development Committee Roberta Garberr Executive Director Community Research Partners January 26, Good Morning Chairwoman Baker, Ranking Member Williams, and members of the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee. Thank you for providing Community Research Partners with the opportunity to discuss our recommendations, and those of the Ohio Workforce Coalition, for addressing the workforce development needs facing Ohio businesses, incumbent workers, and job seekers. I am Roberta Garber, Executive Director of Community Research Partners. CRP is a non profit, non partisan, research, data, and policy center based in Columbus. Our public policy research focuses on data driven state policies for the training and employment of Ohio s adult workforce. As part of this work, we convenee the Ohio Workforce Coalition, a statewide network of more than 900 stakeholders from education and training institutions, the public workforce system, community based organizations, economic development organizations, and business and industry associations. Collectively, the Coalition believes that a skilled adult workforce is crucial for Ohio's economic recovery, and we examine ways that state workforce policies and programs can help to strengthenn businesses, create andd retain jobs,, and ensuree opportunity and prosperity for families. The challenge facing Ohio We have all heard that a skilled workforce is critical to economic growth. This was reiterated in the November issue of Site Selection Magazine. Real estate professionalss from across the country ranked workforce skills as the number one factor for companies

2 making site selection decisions. You would think that in these times of persistently high unemployment it would be easy for businesses to find workers. However, Ohio has two barriers to addressing the workforce needs of employers: (1) the composition of Ohio s adult workforce, and (2) the characteristics of the state and local workforce systems. The composition of the workforce Ohio has a large, hardworking, and motivated population, with a variety of skills. However, nearly half of Ohio adults age 18 to million have no postsecondary education, and thousands more need retraining for new jobs in a changing economy. Even with high unemployment, businesses report a deficit of workers with 21 st century skills. This deficit is greatest for middle skill technical jobs, those that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a 4 year degree. The specific skills needed are diverse and vary by industry sector, employer, and region of the state. The characteristics of the workforce system The Ohio workforce development system includes organizations that provide education, training, work readiness, job search, and job placement and retention services. These services are provided to employers and workers through a complex network of public entities, community based organizations, 2 year and 4 year colleges and universities, career centers, forprofit training providers, and even employers themselves. However, unlike in other states studied by CRP, in Ohio workforce development is not the primary responsibility of any state agency or cabinet level position: nearly two billion dollars in federal and state dollars for workforce training and development are spread across a multitude of programs and initiatives in at least nine state agencies. The fragmented state system, and lack of clear state level policy direction, has had a ripple effect, producing complexity and inconsistency in local workforce services throughout Ohio. Businesses and workers report that Ohio requires them to engage with multiple service providers, and even multiple levels within a service provider organization, to access workforce training resources. Page 2 of 5

3 A three pronged approach While these challenges are significant, there are actions that the legislature can take that can dramatically improve Ohio s workforce system. CRP and the Ohio Workforce Coalition recommend a three pronged approach to improving the Ohio workforce system: 1. Meet the workforce needs of the business community 2. Help adults to be successful in education and training 3. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state and local workforce systems These recommendations are applicable to multiple state agencies, legislative committees, and local institutions and organizations. Meet the workforce needs of the business community: Businesses need (1) help in navigating Ohio s fragmented and complex network of workforce assistance, (2) easy to access resources to train their incumbent (i.e. existing) workforce and new hires; (3) education and training programs that are targeted to their specific skill needs; and (4) incentives to hire newly trained adult workers who lack relevant job experience in their new field. Ohio s state, regional, and local workforce development strategies must be employer led and have the flexibility and resources to respond quickly to immediate workforce needs of local employers. We recommend that the following actions be taken: Continue and expand support for employer led industry sector strategies that are tied to local economic development and training programs. This approach is most cost efficient and successful when led by a workforce intermediary a local organization that serves as a single point of contact to link multiple employers in the same industry sector with education and training providers, workers, and state and local programs and funding. Identify resources to offset federal reductions in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding for incumbent worker training, and help small businesses access these resources. Page 3 of 5

4 Provide financial incentives to employers that hire disadvantaged, dislocated, or adult students for apprenticeships, co op/internships, and other work based learning programs. Help adults to be successful in education and training For many adult students, low literacy levels; conflicts between school, work, and family obligations; the length of time it takes to attain a credential or degree with value in the workplace; and the costs of tuition, books, and other supplies make it difficult to stay on an education and career pathways that can help them advance to better jobs. In additional, state need based financial aid is not available for students in 2 year colleges or in non credit technical training. We recommend that the following actions be taken: Support and encourage postsecondary programs that combine adult basic education, such as remedial math and English, with occupational skills training to provide participants an opportunity to learn job specific skills while they meet basic college requirement. Make sure that adults in education and training are aware of available resources and programs for which they are eligible, many of which are federally funded, that can help them support their families while they are pursuing post secondary education and training. Assure that the Ohio College Opportunity Grant is available for those disadvantaged students who are pursuing education and training directly connected to the indemand occupations of Ohio employers. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce system While coordination and collaboration happens at various levels within state agencies and within local areas, we believe that Ohio needs a strong, experienced individual, accountable to the governor, to lead workforce development activities across all state agencies. This lead workforce official should (1) provide a vision and visibility for state government workforce development activities; (2) link and leverage state, federal, and private resources for Page 4 of 5

5 workforce development; and (3) drive system improvement through policy development, innovation, stakeholder involvement, and performance measurement and reporting. Just as workforce development is not the primary mission of any one state agency, it is also not the primary charge of any committee in the Ohio House or Senate. Currently workforce related legislation may land in health and human services, economic development, higher education, or a handful of other committees. We recommend that standing workforce subcommittees be established in both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly. Creating these committees will assure that the General Assembly will afford workforce development the time and attention that it warrants. Conclusion These recommendations, which are based on research on national best practices and the input of numerous stakeholders from throughout Ohio, are described in more detail in CRP s April 2010 report, Help Wanted: a lead state workforce official, and in the Ohio Workforce Coalition Public Policy Platform. The platform has more than 70 endorsers including workforce investment areas, chambers of commerce, education and training institutions, community based organizations, and business associations. We look forward to working with you over the coming months to improve the Ohio workforce development system and contribute to a growing Ohio economy. References: Community Research Partners, April 2010, Help Wanted: a lead state workforce official, Ohio Workforce Coalition, Public Policy Platform, Platform endorsements: public policy platform/coalitionplatform/endorsers/ For more information contact: Rebecca Kusner Workforce Policy Manager Community Research Partners , ext. 103 Page 5 of 5

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