By this point in August, most, if not all, students have returned to school, eager and nervous to start the year off right. From kindergartners to freshmen college students, education is an issue that permeates all ages and all aspects of Ohio’s economic well-being.
An education that focuses on fundamental courses and that allows for exploration and career development through middle and high school will ensure both a student’s personal success and industry growth throughout the state.
The state legislature has been working on strengthening the connection between education and the workforce. Our goals have been to not only fill jobs in industries that are struggling to find candidates with the proper certifications, such as manufacturing and welding, but to also create alternative pathways for school-age children to discover a fulfilling career that they may not have originally thought was for them. With many young adults graduating from traditional four-year universities with thousands of dollars of debt and sometimes limited job opportunities, we have worked to develop policies that will help solve this issue and educate students on the various higher education options available that can lead to good paying careers.
Through the passage of the state’s biennial budget, a provision was included that directly addresses the gap between education and the workforce. This provision creates the Higher Education Workforce Grant Program, which is designed to incentivize students to pursue degrees or certifications that match the in-demand jobs in the state of Ohio. The program awards grants to eligible students who are earning such certifications for these needed jobs. Additionally, for students that decide to pursue the traditional two or four-year college education, the budget bill froze tuition rates at state colleges and universities, keeping costs down for college students.
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at an event that epitomizes everything the legislature has been working towards in regards to workforce development, the 2016 Bold Fusion Summit, hosted by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. This summit is the region’s largest annual convergence of young professionals, where young minds come together to learn about entrepreneurship how to advance their career. The gathering provides students and recent graduates with the opportunity to discuss different methods and discover what works best for them when finding or developing a career.
As you or your children head back to school this month, I hope you will take a moment to think about the future and maybe take a chance to learn what education and career choices will work best for you and your family. There is a wealth of opportunities available, and as we strive to diversify the workforce, Ohio will continue into the future with much success.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.