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Published: Tuesday, 4/8/2008

Matching jobs, workers

EVEN as Ohio s unemployment rate hovers above the national average, thousands of good-paying jobs in manufacturing, high-tech, and other fields go begging for qualified workers in the state. Fortunately, the disconnect between businesses that need workers and workers who need jobs is finally being addressed by the Strickland administration.

Signaling that he has heard the lament of Ohio companies desperate for skilled workers to fill immediate openings, Gov. Ted Strickland ordered a shift of staff and funding in state government to more effectively serve the needs of employers.

The realignment of $31 million in worker-training programs and 29 staffers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to the Ohio Department of Development is a welcome move.

For too long, businesses have viewed the funded programs under Jobs and Family Services as more welfare reform than a system that could deliver to industry workers with the right mix of talent and skills. But the Development Department is different because, as some highly pleased business leaders say, worker-training money will now be controlled by the agency that best knows what employers are looking for.

Besides that commendable change, the governor s order also aims to improve other areas of workforce development by integrating worker-training programs with higher education. The Ohio Board of Regents will assume responsibility for the Ohio Skills Bank program and its employees from Jobs and Family Services.

The fledgling program relies on 12 regional teams of educators, business experts, and others to identify shortages in job skills and to work on filling them through corresponding curriculums in high school, college, and worker-training programs. It gives us a significant capability that was missing, regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut said.

Finally, the heightened emphasis of the state to meet the talent demands of businesses directly with targeted job development and worker training tied to appropriate education should pay off in a stronger economic future.

Building a more efficient workforce in Ohio with low unemployment takes this kind of solid, long-term investment.

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