Jobs is topic of breakfast at Northwest State Community College
By LISA NICELY
Published: October 23, 2011 8:00AM
ARCHBOLD — There are an estimated 77,000 job openings in Ohio. With more than 77,000 people
currently unemployed, why aren’t the jobs being filled?
That was the topic discussed during the community breakfast at Northwest State Community College on
“It seems the usual issues and problems we face are no longer usual anymore,” said John Trott, executive
director of the Area 7 Workforce Investment Board. The board covers 43 counties including Defiance,
Henry, Paulding, Fulton and Willliams.
Trott pointed out that of the estimated 77,000 jobs, the skills of the unemployed don’t match the needs of
“Job openings require more skills,” Trott said. “We are experiencing the worst economy since the Great
Depression. It’s bad. There’s a new employment situation like we’ve never seen before.”
Many challenges facing employees and employers today have no easy solutions. Funding for the
Workforce Investment Act, which involves One-Stop offices, is in question. People are overworked and
understaffed. Employers are hiring, but can’t find people to fill the positions.
“Skills gap is the new buzz word,” Trott said. “Everyone is trying to figure out what it is and what to do
with it. Businesses are hiring that have good paying positions with benefits and a bright future and they
can’t hire somebody. They are frustrated they can’t find the right person. In discussions we’re hearing there
is a knowledge and skills deficient.”
In addition, in some communities there is a work ethic deficiency. There is talk among businesses of
screening prospective applicants so those who are long-time unemployed are cut. Some people want to
make that practice illegal because they feel it is discrimination.
“Employers are saying in this economy, ‘when people are hiring why aren’t you working?’ There is an
aspect here that is troublesome and controversial,” Trott said. “Some of the skill gap issues aren’t so much
skills as other issues.”
He added some communities also have issues such as drugs usage by prospective employees.
The state is currently looking into what to do about these issues in the skills gap. They’ve already
determined what doesn’t work, such as training people in growth industries and hoping companies come to
the area and using traditional occupation and research. One thing that seems to be working is focusing on
positions that currently exist and are being created locally by having a direct line of sight for businesses
“What businesses in your community have needs and what are they?” he asked adding that once that is
known, “you can then drive programs in that business.”
Northwest Ohio is a great example of how this can work.
“It’s great to be here because you have a fantastic state model to look at,” Trott said highlighting the
relationship between Northwest State Community College (NSCC) and Ruralogic, which deals with
information technology. NSCC has a training program specific to Ruralogic’s skill set needs. “What’s
working is very local, very colloquial and very specific. We need to be quick, collaborative. These are
things you’ve heard for decades but they are needed.”
Trott said that the collaboration between NSCC and Ruralogic has caught the attention of the legislature.
He said he knows the collaboration took a lot of work from NSCC and from the local One Stops.
“What they came up with is a program where people learn database management — it’s a rigourous course
geared toward the business,” Trott said. “I know the One Stop is helping with cost and recruiting. Then
when those graduates pass, most of them get a job at Ruralogic.”
He added that collaborations like Ruralogic and NSCC are important for the state. They also show what
can really work and how One Stops can increase their return on investments for individuals.
Trott said the Area 7 Workforce Investment Board has been tracking data to find their return on
investments. They study how much money is spent on training as well as other aid such as unemployment
benefits and food stamps and then what happens to those individuals. They looked at everyone served in a
single quarter last year, which was approximately 400 individuals. A year later, there was a return shown.
“It wasn’t a great return on investment, but it was a return,” Trott said. “For every $1 invested in them –
everything including food stamps, benefits — they returned $1.20. We can do better and we have to do
better. For every dollar the public gives us, we want to double our investment or more. We’re trying to
make better and better decisions about our investments.”
However, funding for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is in jeopardy. While the program isn’t huge, it
is important. It receives about $125 million in federal funding to Ohio, which is overseen by the
Department of Labor. In the last decade there has been a 23 percent total decrease in funding and more
may be coming.
“Just last week the U.S. House proposed legislation that essentially guts the current employment and
training system,” Trott said. “We haven’t seen anything that drastic before.”
The proposal would cut $2.2 billion from the program, which usually sees around $3-4 billion in funding.
“We’d never recover from that,” Trott said, adding the senate proposed flat funding. “You can be anywhere
from flat to completely gutting the program. That is what are we experiencing.”