EDITOR’S NOTE: This op-ed is a collaboration on the value of the area’s community colleges by Dr. Ron Schumacher, President, Terra State Community College; Dr. Bill Balzer, Interim President, Owens Community College; and Dr. Michael Thomson, President, Northwest State Community College.
Ohio’s community colleges remain the critical linchpin to workforce development for our state. The Covid-19 pandemic significantly disrupted Ohio employers and employees. Many Ohio businesses retrenched but recognized the need for upskilling the continuing workforce to survive.
Employees who lost their jobs found themselves needing new skills for a secure career in Ohio’s future economy. The realities of the soon-to-be post-Covid-19 economy indicate a shortage of needed skills for Ohio’s future workforce as businesses grow and rebuild a thriving state economy.
In northwest Ohio, Northwest State Community College, Owens State Community College and Terra State Community College together can meet all these workforce development needs – customized training, short-term certificates, “learn while you earn” employer-sponsored programs, apprenticeships, associate degrees and more.
Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner, the Development Services Agency and the Ohio legislature have made workforce development a state priority.
They provided significant new funding for community colleges and other partners to cover or defray the costs of workforce development.
As one example, the recently established TechCred program provides worker training grants to employers to upskill their incumbent workforce and qualify them for new jobs in a more technology-infused economy. As of December 2020, more than 15,000 employee credentials have been awarded.
Community colleges are also collaborating with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation to deliver industry-recognized credentials to help displaced workers re-enter the workforce and help current workers advance their careers.
Your three community colleges in northwest Ohio participate in these and other state-wide workforce development initiatives. Additionally, each of us brings unique, specialized expertise to bridge Ohio’s workforce gap and help employers and employees get the skills, high-value credentials, and post secondary degrees they need for success:
The newly opened 59,000 square foot Dana Center for Advanced Manufacturing on the Owens Community College’s Perrysburg campus offers critically-needed short-term certificates, associate degrees and customized training in advanced manufacturing and skilled trades to address the current and projected shortage of skilled workers to support the manufacturing base of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
The Dana Center features six skilled technology labs including robotics and programmable logic controller (PLC); computer-aided design (CAD); computer numerical control (CNC) and manual machining; mechanical and pneumatics; electrical; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and alternative energy.
Terra State’s Kern Center for Workforce and Community Education offers critical training in leadership, healthcare and skilled trades, as well as industry-driven testing and certifications. Throughout the fall 2020 semester, the Kern Center served more than 150 apprentices from 32 local companies.
Medical students applied the direct patient care they learned in the classroom to provide Covid-19 testing on campus in partnership with ProMedica and The Bellevue Hospital, keeping members of the campus community safe while developing workforce skills. Terra State opened labs during Covid-19 so that workers from area companies could obtain essential training without having to interrupt production at their facilities. The College was awarded a U.S. Department of Labor JobCorps Scholars grant that expands access to training opportunities for underserved populations within in-demand occupations.
Northwest State was one of 11 community colleges nationally to receive a Department of Labor “Strengthening Community College Training Grant.” The $1.69 million grant continues NSCC’s previous workforce efforts to update the skills of current and displaced northwest Ohio workers for critical, high-demand local jobs. The grant coordinates 30 employer and civic partners and uses in-person combined with virtual learning, which has been shown to help learners reach a higher mastery level at a faster pace than traditional training methods.
The primary mission of a community college is workforce development. Your community colleges in northwest Ohio – Northwest State Community College, Owens Community College, and Terra State Community College – take seriously our role in building the talent pipeline that prepares employees for good jobs and careers, meets the workforce needs of employers and drives economic development.
We have delivered workforce development solutions to all sizes and sectors of business since we were established and will continue to meet your needs now and into the future. Together, we are dedicated to making sure that community colleges are no longer the best-kept secret, but rather the first choice for nimble and fast, best quality and low-cost workforce education in northwest Ohio.