Transcript: “Ohio Workforce Overview” with Lt. Governor Jon Husted – S1 E1
Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development Director of Workforce Development, Clint Knight, is joined by Lt. Governor Jon Husted, as they discuss the ups and downs of labor participation and unemployment through the pandemic, and the trends post-pandemic. Clint and Jon also discuss the opportunities and need for upskilling in Ohio, and potential funding sources to make that happen.
CLINT: Welcome to the Workforce Pulse Podcast. My name is Clint Knight. I’m the director of Workforce Development at the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development. Over the next seven episodes, we’re going to bring in a variety of guests to talk about the state of the workforce in mid-Ohio and how it relates to the state. We’re going to present opportunities, ideas, and resources to grow the workforce, talk about continuing to educate our workforce, and ways that we can work together. Made possible by the Area 10 Workforce Development Board, this is the workforce pulse.
All right, I’m really excited to have Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted here on the Richland Workforce Pulse podcast for our first episode. Lieutenant Governor, thank you for taking the time this morning to get on and talk with us and we are really interested to hear about some trends and some things that we’re looking at here across the state of Ohio in workforce and workforce development. Thanks for joining us today.
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Great to be with you. Yeah it’s a great time to be looking for a job. We’re creating jobs faster than we can find people to fill them, so it’s an exciting topic.
CLINT: There are definitely now hiring signs everywhere, jobs posted all over Ohio Means Jobs and on various local, regional, and national platforms, so it’s a great time for job seekers who are looking for new opportunities, and I’m looking to learn something new.
So, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about, I heard you back in 2021 talk about the disappearance of segments of the workforce, people that had exited the workforce during COVID. Can you first touch on a little bit of that data that you saw through the Office of Workforce Transformation and that you guys followed and what the trend appears to be here as we roll into the second quarter of 2022.
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Yeah, so it’s interesting. We had obviously when the pandemic hit, a big, huge spike in the number of people on employment, and then as the vaccines occurred, as more businesses started to open back up, you saw more and more people come back to the workforce.
There always have been a lot of jobs open throughout that entire process. It’s just that for various reasons, people weren’t coming back to work. It may have been that they had a health concern, but it also may have been because the federal government was basically paying people not to work, and eventually we got to the point in Ohio, after the vaccine was available, we, along with 26 other states, ended the bonus payments for people who were not working.
We saw a little bit of a surge of people coming back into the workforce, but there was still a reluctance. Even though we had low unemployment rates, we still had a number of people that didn’t come back. Again, for a lot of reasons, you can’t put your finger on any one thing. It might have been that they had a health concern, it might have been that they just retired. They were near retirement age and they retired and they kind of enjoyed it and they weren’t interested in going back to the office.
It may have been in some circumstances that families decided, hey, there’s a two-earner income where both of us are headed off to work in the morning, putting kids in childcare, it’s just not the lifestyle we want. We’re going to cut back a little bit, we’re going to do more with less and only one spouse is going to work.
So there was just a variety of different choices that people made, but we still have the federal government giving people Medicaid and food assistance without any eligibility requirements, so that may still contribute some at the margins for people coming back to work.
But it’s kind of all of the above. All of those reasons are contributing to the fact that people haven’t come back.
But there’s also another issue that I didn’t touch on that day in Ashland too much, but I’ll emphasize it a little bit more. We have demographic problems in America today. Over the last 20 years, birth rates have plummeted, as it does in most advanced western economies, that people as they become more affluent have less children.
More and more in our society, people are having fewer children, and without really an immigration system that allows people to come here based on work needs, we’re running short of a workforce in terms of what we’ve commonly thought about it.
So those are all factors that are contributing to the shortage of a workforce, and I’ll stop there and allow you to probe a little bit more on questions you might have on that before I talk about some of the solutions and some of the opportunities that are out there.
CLINT: So essentially, is it fair to say that we’re looking at a population problem, possibly? I guess I mean you said demographic and those two kind of go hand in hand, is that right?
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Yeah, I mean look, our workforce, people who are retiring, you know that baby-boom population there were a lot of people in that and they’re retiring and the replacement isn’t occurring because the next generation you know is not having children. The replacement you know the same pace that we didn’t once. So, you’re having people retiring at a faster pace than they’re entering the workforce in a lot of America, and with typically in the past, that’s never happened in America. We’ve also supplemented that growth with legal immigration over the years. And both of those things are not happening right now, so it’s creating a lack of workforce.
By the way, workforce participation rates are down. Why? You can look at some of the statistics and see that a growing number of the population is on Social Security disability. We have around 8% of the working-age population who are claiming Social Security disability.
We have a more generous safety net program, which in the past, people may have chosen to work. Now they’re choosing not to work. We have more affluence at the top, so maybe families can do it with just a one-earner income, and both spouses don’t need to work as they started to do in the 1950s and going forward.
All of those factors contribute. It’s not one of them. It’s all of those that are contributing to a smaller workforce, which means two things. Employers are having a hard time finding people to go to work with the right skills, and as a result of that, it’s good for employees. Because if you are in the marketplace for a job right now, you’re seeing higher pay, more flexibility, more choices out there for you, so the leverage for the first time in maybe more so than any time in American history is to the employee. They have more leverage in this conversation than they have in many, many years.
CLINT: There always have. You mentioned skills there, which is key, and that’s a huge topic in workforce. Specifically, workforce development, which is what I focus on here. I want to ask a question before we dive into the skills conversation. Is there evidence to believe right now that some segments of that population or some groups of the population we mentioned exited the workforce during COVID or just post COVID. Is there evidence that they’re coming back, that they are coming back into the workforce into potentially new careers, or back to the jobs that they left? What are we seeing there? Or how do you feel about that?
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Yeah, there is a growing number every week. We’re adding new jobs in the State of Ohio and in the country. You’re seeing people come back slowly. People gradually re-entering the workforce. In America, we have fewer people employed now than we had pre-pandemic again. You can’t attribute it to one thing.
Some of it is people retiring and they’re just not coming back to work. You know they retired early. Some people making lifestyle choices. Some people, you know, there’s a generous social safety net, and they’ve decided to take advantage of it. All of those factors contribute to the slowness of people re-entering the workforce.
Sometimes you will hear that, well, they can’t have access to childcare. Actually, the number of people taking advantage of publicly subsidized childcare is down, so it’s not that it doesn’t exist. It’s that people are choosing for a variety of reasons not to take advantage of it.
And look, that’s not all bad. The idea that one parent would stay home and raise their children while the other one went to work, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a great thing. If you have the ability to do that, it’s probably going to benefit your children if you do those kinds of things. These are just choices that people make. I’m not casting a value judgment on most of this.
There are some things I will cast a value judgment on, but it’s just the reality of what we face and it’s creating opportunity for people to go to work if they want to.
High school kids, trust me if you go to your Career Center, or your career high school, they can teach you skills where you’ll graduate on Saturday and somebody will hire you on Monday, and many high school students are also.
Whether that is as a CNC machinist. May be working in cyber security, in the construction, trades, or apprenticeships. I’m telling you if you take advantage of these…robotics… if you take advantage of these while you’re in high school. I promise you there’s a job waiting for you as soon as you graduate without having to go to college.
That’s more true today than it was 10-20 years ago. So that’s creating you know some of the “bad news for employers” is good news for people that want to enter the workplace.
It’s also giving flexibility to families, particularly people in tech. They can work from home, do distance work, and they can live in one place and work in another. You could live in Richland County and work for a company in Seattle if you have the right kinds of skills. So, there are lots of choices out there for people that this marketplace is creating.
CLINT: Yeah, you mentioned the career centers specifically; whether it’s comprehensive high schools or the CTE programs. One of the things that we’re hearing and have been hearing here for about 3 years from Pioneer and Madison and Mansfield Senior, a lot of those CTE programs, many of those students are working full time or almost full time their senior they’re already hired.
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Yeah, that’s happening. A lot of the schools are doing two weeks on, two weeks off. You go to school for two weeks and then you work for two weeks. Some of them, you know, have different schedules. I was at one Career Center recently where the graduating senior class at the Career Center had made a million and a half dollars while they were in high school. This is like during the year in a variety of different areas, in manufacturing, in technology, in construction. The opportunities are out there. You don’t have to go to college to get a great job.
We unveiled topjobs.ohio.gov in advance of in-demand jobs week. Topjobs.ohio.gov. You’ll see the 15 top occupations in Ohio that pay more than $50,000 a year that are in demand, that you don’t need to go to college to get these jobs. You can just literally get them with an industry-recognized credential which you can get at your high school also through the adult education program, so I don’t want to just focus on the kids and the young adults, you may already be in the workforce and you could upscale yourself to get one of these jobs, change careers if you want to do that. There are many ways you can do this.
I’ll give you 2 examples at the TechCred, which is what we provide, the state of Ohio program we provide for businesses. They pick the employee, they pick the provider of the skill that they want them to earn, and then we approve that, and then once they earn the credential, we reimbursed them up to $2000 for the cost of the program.
I was at 1 employer yesterday who said they’re taking their employees, their entry-level employees, and any of them that wanted to upskill, particularly the one that they needed the most was industrial maintenance. And that they said look, we can’t find enough people here. We’ll train our employees. They can go and earn more, and have more job security. A lot more options. It doesn’t cost them anything and a lot of times you could earn these credentials in weeks.
Whether that’s broadband tower technician or somebody that since we’re talking about broadband, hey? We gotta have people to build it. If you’re going to build 5G and broadband, you have a workforce. We’re training people to do that.
A lot of these you can do through TechCred, as I mentioned, but there’s also another program called IMAP (individual microcredential assistance program), that’s for anybody. You can be out there today, you’re listening to this podcast, you want to learn a new skill. Go look at IMAP. We pay up to $3000 for you to earn a credential in one of these in-demand tech areas.
And when I say tech, I don’t mean that you have to be an expert in AI or cyber security. Manufacturing is tech construction is tech. It’s all using some form of technology to help you do your job, and so there are just so many opportunities for people to take advantage of.
CLINT: So I do want to touch on one thing there with TechCred. We have multiple employers in Richland County that have already utilized TechCred, and one of the misconceptions initially that I’ve heard is, “we’re not an IT company, we’re not really a tech company,” but the clarification there is when you go and fill out, on the TechCred website when you go to apply for it, there is a list of certifications, but you can add a certification for approval, right?
So if you have a specific certification you want your employee to get, if you’re an employer looking to upskill an employee, then you can suggest or ask for that to be added and approved. Is that right? Is that how that works?
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: That’s right, and we’ve added hundreds of new credentials based on that process. We came up with the ones that we thought were the top ones. If enough employers want other ones, we can add those. Understand, the reason I like the program so much is it’s on a reimbursement basis, meaning that the taxpayers are not out a penny until you complete the credential, then we pay for it, so it’s pay-for-performance and everybody wins. The employer gets a more talented employee, and the employee earns more, has more job security and actually more mobility because if that employer doesn’t treat you well, off you go to somebody else because you have this great skill that’s of value.
I say look, I want to knock down the barriers in people lives, so that they can live their version of the American Dream. Whatever it is you want to do, it’s up to you. We’re trying to knock those down by getting you job security and job training. Because if you have job skills, you have a great job, and you have freedom. You have the ability to do what you want in life. You won’t need government. You won’t need me. You’re just going to go off and live a positive version of your life, where you’re contributing to making the world a better place, taking care of yourself and your family. That’s what we’re trying to do here and it all starts with a great education, job skills, and access to career opportunities.
That’s what we’re building in Ohio. Right now today…you talked about this earlier, we started the conversation, I should have mentioned this earlier…we have 63,000 people on unemployment in Ohio, and on OhioMeansJobs.com, our job posting board, we have over 250,000 jobs, so 63,000 people on unemployment, 250,000 jobs available…on one website, mind you, and more than 150,000 of those jobs pay $50,000 a year or more, and we’ll pay for job training so that you can go get one of them. That’s what Ohio is today. We just need people to take advantage of it.
CLINT: So you mentioned that job training. We talked about TechCred. IMAP, which is if you are a job seeker. If you’re looking to learn a new skill, not necessarily through your employer, but just an individual who’s looking to elevate your skill level, IMAP, you could just apply for that. You could identify the career on OhioMeansJobs that you would like to go after and then go out and specifically earn that new skill and it could be paid for through IMAP. Is that right?
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Yeah, I mean it’s there for you. I encourage anybody to go check it out. Go to those two places. Go to OhioMeansJobs.com and look at all the jobs that are out there, and then look at IMAP and look at all the skills that we’ll pay for and you’ll see that there’s a match somewhere out there for you. You might be at home and you say, well, I worked in healthcare, or I worked in education or childcare, but you know what, the good-paying jobs are in manufacturing? Or they’re in some kind of construction or technology. Then find that job. Go to IMAP, see where you get the training and we’ll pay for it. We’ll pay for you to do that so that you can start a new career.
By the way, if you’re applying for a job with an employer, sometimes they’ll say sure we’ll train you to do it. You can use the TechCred option, either one of them is available for you. TechCred though you have to work with an employer. IMAP is self-driven, so if you’re sitting at home and you don’t have a job, there’s still an option for you to get trained for one of those that are out there.
CLINT: Awesome. That’s a lot of great information for both employers and employees or potential employees who might be looking for a new career or someone who’s not working is looking for a new career.
Back to the employer side really quickly. I wanted to mention, we talk a lot about the generational employee and the younger employees right now retention is key to employers on that side. Younger employees might be looking and job-hopping, for the lack of a better term. I’m not a big fan of that term, but it is what it is. You know, they may come and stay for a year…
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Well you know, when you’re young, you’re trying to figure out what you like.
CLINT: Right, so would you say that, I know the studies show that younger employees are looking for that pathway to move up the ladder? They want to know what is my progression? Is TechCred an opportunity to show those employees that you’re investing in them, elevating their skills, and creating those career pathways for them?
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Look, I liken the opportunity to climbing a mountain or climbing the stairs. You earn a credential and you get it. But if there’s something else you want to do that requires more skills, well then you can go earn another credential.
A lot of times those come with college credits associated with them and you can just continue to advance yourself based on your willingness though to invest in yourself to get the skills that are necessary for you to take one of these jobs and move up that career ladder. It’s out there. Look, there are no barriers standing in the way from you getting a job right now, you getting the job training that you want, and you advancing that career.
But I will give the same advice I tell my own children…you’re not going to learn sitting on the bench. You gotta get in the game. You gotta go out there and you’ve got to roll up your sleeves. You gotta get up in the morning. You gotta go to work. You gotta have a good attitude. You gotta, give this try, and right now there’s never been a better time.
I mean, there are times that people have entered the workforce throughout the history of the country, during recessions or during bad times. You know, if you were entering the workforce in 2008, 2009, or 2010, it was not a very good time.
In 2022, there are more jobs than we have people to fill. There are so many options out there for you, but you gotta, you gotta get in the game. You gotta get into the workforce. Get some of this job training so that you can climb that mountain.
CLINT: It’s great to hear that the opportunity is out there. Like we mentioned earlier, help wanted signs, now hiring posted everywhere that you travel around and numerous opportunities are posted on websites, on OhioMeansJobs. Get out there and look for it, use the TechCred. Use the IMAP. If you’re a student, talk to your guidance counselors.
Look at the opportunities to get upskilled and create your own pathway and find a way. I was excited that you mentioned the infrastructure and the Tower program. You were here not long ago at North Central where Dr. Diab and North Central are going to be rolling out that program here in the near future. He’s coming up in this podcast series and we’ll specifically talk about that, as well.
As you guys work on the government side to grow the broadband opportunity in the state, we have to have the employees to support it. We have to have the skills to literally build it, maintain it and repair it, and we’re going to have some great opportunities for you to get those skills here at North Central State right here in Richland County. It’s an exciting time in Ohio. Lots of economic development projects going on right now.
More new businesses coming in than we’ve ever seen, correct?
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Oh yeah, when Governor Dewine and I received the letter from the CEO of Intel saying that Ohio had won, that they were going to build the largest, most advanced semiconductor production facility on the planet, since that moment, it was already going well in Ohio in terms of jobs and job recovery, but now it’s just going to be on fire. That’s going to ripple throughout the state because they’ll bring 25 to 30 large companies with them that’ll be part of the supply chain.
I mean, these companies that are coming, one of them that I know of them in particular, it’s going to have 1200 jobs. That would be a large project on its own, but that’s just a supplier, it will be 25 to 30 of those types of companies, not all of them will be that size, but then 140 other companies in Ohio that will also supply Intel that already do that we’ll just see their job numbers grow. Then we’re getting calls from other companies now that say hey Intel’s there, we want to look at Ohio, so Ohio’s future is bright.
But you got to have the right kinds of skills. The Intel jobs, by the way, they’re going to pay on average $135,000 a year, and many of these are for technicians and engineers. And I don’t mean like Ph.D.’s or bachelor’s degrees. I mean things that you can get at North Central, you can get those skills their, work at these kinds of facilities and have a great life and we just need people to take advantage of them.
CLINT: It’s a great time to learn, a great time to get new skills and be excited about, especially for the young people. The opportunities are almost limitless at this point.
As you mentioned, those types of jobs are going to trickle down and ripple out throughout the state. We’re going to have those suppliers here in Richland County, and many of the other 87 counties in the State. Ohio is growing rapidly.
CLINT: Look, the cyber command that’s at the local base in Richland County. There are so many cyber security jobs and cyber security expertise that are like in your own backyard that you probably don’t even know about, that if you have that aptitude, I mean, these are great careers.
If you’re a young person, and by the way, some people they hear that and they think, well, I don’t have the aptitude to do it. Don’t sell yourself short. I bet there are a lot more people…I know there are a lot more people who have those skills…we just need to get him into the right training and background opportunities so that they can flourish.
There’s something out there for you. Go to that list, TopJobs.Ohio.gov, Top 15 jobs that pay more than $50,000 a year and you don’t need to go to college. These are opportunities that never existed before. You used to have to go to college for these kinds of jobs. You don’t anymore.
CLINT: That’s exciting stuff. I’m excited to see how we move forward here as I continue to do my work. You continue to do your work. Workforce development can be challenging. It can be exciting. It can be frustrating. All of those things, but I’m encouraged.
I’m encouraged by the opportunities that we have to learn and grow and the careers that are out there. So thank you so much for your time today and I look forward to talking to you again in the future as things continue to develop and new opportunities grow out there, we hope you have a great week Lieutenant governor. Thank you for your time.
LT. GOVERNOR HUSTED: Great to be with you.
CLINT: Thanks for listening to the Workforce Pulse podcast.
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