John Kasich hardly is the first governor to aim at improving the state’s workforce development system. Ted Strickland launched a bold initiative that included the Ohio Skills Bank, taking a regional approach to enhancing the workforce and linking to the employment needs of businesses. It suffered in the harsh recession and from decisions that misfired in the deployment of resources.
A second Strickland term would have allowed for adjustments and building on the promising foundation in place. Instead, Kasich has taken up the cause. If anything, he has been more ambitious, looking to construct a more centralized and coordinated effort, even getting businesses to forecast the skills they need so educational institutions can organize to deliver.
This project fits into the category of “if it was easy, it already would have been achieved.” The governor himself told reporters: “This is not something that’s going to be done in a day, or a week, or a year. It’s an ongoing situation.” Add that few priorities are more important for the state.
Kasich has talked about the task ever since the campaign two years ago, regularly pointing to the mishmash of 90 or so workforce-related programs spread over a dozen state offices and agencies. On Monday, his Executive Workforce Board met for the first time. The panel of business executives, educators, lawmakers and local government officials held a productive conversation.
Albert Ratner of Forest City Enterprises may have made the most telling point. He highlighted the urgency, arguing that the panel meet more often so that it can plunge deeply into the problem and make strong recommendations for action.
Another member cautioned against unrealistic expectations about projecting job trends. The state will accomplish much if the board provides a springboard to focused leadership and coordination. It will advance things considerably if it can arrive at clear and credible performance measures of workforce development programs, bringing definition to what works and does not.
All of this points to making the effort relevant to the lives of Ohioans, an initiative that endures through its quality and a more capable workforce.