CLEVELAND, OH – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined displaced auto workers and leaders in the bioscience and green energy industries today at Cuyahoga Community College to discuss new workforce development legislation that would provide training for high-tech jobs in northeast Ohio.
“We can revitalize Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing base with new high-tech industries, but we need to make sure our workforce is prepared,” said Brown. “By building on regional partnerships between businesses, workforce leaders, and colleges, we can create and retain jobs in Ohio. My legislation will create a pipeline of workers to fill the jobs of the 21st century.”
Brown is the author of the “Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success” (SECTORS) Act of 2009. This bipartisan legislation, which he introduced with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would support the development of specialized workforce training programs at two-year colleges to meet regional workforce needs of emerging industries or “sectors.”
The SECTORS Act addresses the disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries. Despite Ohio’s 9.2 percent unemployment rate, there is still demand in today’s labor market for skilled workers. This is particularly true for “middle-skill” jobs that require more than a high school degree but less than a four-year college degree. These jobs encompass nearly half of America’s labor market and provide good compensation for workers.
To address this disparity, the SECTORS Act provides grants for sector partnerships among institutions of higher education, industry, organized labor, and workforce boards. These partnerships would create customized solutions for specific industries at the regional level. A sector approach can focus on the dual goals of promoting the long-term competitiveness of industries and advancing employment opportunities for workers.
Brown was joined today by Dr. Craig Follins, Executive Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Cuyahoga Community College; John Gajewski, Executive Director of Bioscience Workforce Training Center at Cuyahoga Community College; Baiju R. Shah, President & CEO of BioEnterprise; Dr. Bill Tacon, Senior Director, Workforce & Education at BioOhio; John Nahornyj, United Auto Workers Representative for Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1, where Ford will manufacture advanced “EcoBoost” engines; and Carrie Marsico, a former GM Employee who completed Machine Trades Apprentice Program and now works as instructor.
Brown and Follins outlined how the college is utilizing more than $2 million in new federal funds to train workers in advanced manufacturing related to green energy and biosciences.
Cuyahoga Community College, in partnership with the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board and business leaders, received $2.3 million in new federal funds from the Department of Labor (DOL) for the Manufacturing Access to Growth and Innovation in Cuyahoga County – Northeast Ohio (MAGICC-NEO) program. Brown’s SECTORS Act would support the creation of similar “sector” partnerships throughout Northeast Ohio.
The SECTORS Act also encourages the development of industry specific worker training programs to attract and retain high-tech companies. Along with Cuyahoga Community College leaders, Brown discussed how specialized workforce development programs can bring new economic growth to Northeast Ohio—particularly in green energy manufacturing and biosciences. Brown recently secured $951,500 in federal funds for the Alternative Energies Workforce Applications Education and Training Program at Cuyahoga Community College. These funds, which were secure through a collaborative effort between Brown, Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), and Reps. Marcia Fudge, Dennis Kucinich, and Betty Sutton will help create a pipeline of skilled Ohio workers to meet the region’s growing alternative energy industry. Cuyahoga Community College will use the funds to provide hands-on advanced energy training to students and workers.
In addition to training in alternative energies, Cuyahoga Community College recently opened a new Bioscience Workforce Training and Assessment Center. The program provides workforce development to support the approximately 450 bioscience companies in northeast Ohio.
Brown and Shah today discussed a recently released analysis from Brown’s office and BioOhio that demonstrates the expansion of bioscience and underscores the industry’s critical demand for skilled workers. The report found that Ohio’s manufacturing base is transitioning to high-technology industries, with bioscience and health care industries now representing 15.7 percent of the state’s economic output—contributing $148 billion annually and accounting for 1.37 million direct and indirect jobs. More than 1,100 bioscience-related entities (companies and research institutions) are located in Ohio, which represents a four-fold increase since 2001. More than 639 of these entities manufacture medical devices and equipment and 11 Ohio pharmaceutical manufacturing companies have either expanded or announced new facilities in the past few years. The bioscience expansion is expected to add 700 new jobs over the next several years. A list of Ohio companies involved in medical devices and equipment can be found here.
Ohio’s economic development has been stunted by workforce development issues. According to a November 2007 report released by Gov. Ted Strickland’s office, four out of 10 employers statewide reported having a difficult time finding qualified applicants.
Between 2000 and 2007, Ohio experienced a 24.3 percent drop in manufacturing employment, shedding nearly 230,000 jobs. Overall employment dropped by nearly 3.6 percent in the same time period. Compared with other states in the region, Ohio is one of only three that did not fully recover jobs lost after the 2001 recession. Ohio also had the second highest manufacturing job losses behind Michigan.
Brown has been working to develop workforce development programs at colleges that meet the needs of the regional business community. Last month, he hosted host his second annual college and university presidents’ conference in Washington, D.C. with more than 45 Ohio presidents. In April of 2008, Brown launched this first- of-its-kind forum for Ohio college and university presidents and congressional leaders to initiate discussion concerning common goals, needs, and opportunities in higher education. This first conference was followed by six regional forums across Ohio of college presidents and regional business leaders held in late 2008. Participants discussed how to addresses the disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries. Attendees shared ideas and best practices for preparing students for the 21st century and ensuring that Ohio’s educational institutions strategically promote educational access and economic opportunity.