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Published: Wednesday, 10/7/2009

Improved education called key to new jobs

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

In a rapidly changing, competitive global market, better education is one of the most important things northwest Ohio could do to keep pace and create jobs.

"If we can train bright, able people, economic development will take care of itself," said Tom Brady, founder and chief executive of Plastic Technologies Inc. and the interim dean of the University of Toledo's college of education.

Mr. Brady, along with Linda Stacy, a skills bank coordinator for the state of Ohio's university system, Steve Gruetter, director of Platform Lab, a state-funded technology testing facility, and Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, made up a panel yesterday to discuss "Technology as an agent of change in northwest Ohio."

The discussion, which drew about 150 area businessmen to the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg, was sponsored by the Regional Growth Partnership.

The panel was to talk about ways that innovative technology could benefit the region, but it became clear that the panel members considered education an element just as important as technology.

Asked about ways the region could advance in a competitive marketplace, the panelists continually cited the importance of training and education.

Ms. Stacy said that even applying for jobs taxes the level of learning of some applicants.

Nowadays, many employers want applicants to apply online and scan documents into their applications.

"Many just don't know how to do that," she said.

Mr. Baumhower said at the

Toledo Jeep Assembly complex, education plays an ever-greater role.

"On the production side, it has all changed. New hires have to have computer skills," he said. "Every single work station now has a computer and you have to have those skills."

Mr. Brady said he would like to revamp the higher-education system to reward faculty for performance and creativity rather than longevity, as has been past practice.

Mr. Gruetter warned that just advocating more education isn't much help unless the skills being taught are going to give an area a competitive edge.

"You have to decide what is opportunity, and what is just noise," he said.

Asked what things businesses can do to move the region forward, Mr. Gruetter said companies should get behind organizations that make things happen - and vote to support an upcoming bond issue next year that would renew Ohio's Third Frontier technology initiative.

Mr. Brady said he'd like to see the region's attitude change.

"Act like we're successful. One of our worst enemies is promoting the idea that we can't be successful," he said.

Cities, counties, townships, and school districts should work better together, Ms. Stacy said.

Mr. Baumhower said he'd like to see a better marketing effort. The region has success stories it could share with the nation, but it's not doing enough to spread the word, not even within the region.

"Just internally, we need to keep these stories going," he said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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