Center For Development eyes improved work force

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

As America's economy becomes more and more knowledge-based, Ohio University Southern's Center For Development is working to make sure southern Ohio is not left behind.

The Knowledge Economy Awareness Initiative is an education campaign promoted by Gov. Bob Taft to work with his Third Frontier program to help bring Ohio's workforce back to the front-line of technology and discovery.

"If you look at it in a nutshell, the program says this is where we are and we want to develop an economic plan to make the connection between business and education," said Dennis Thornton, project director for the Center for Development. "We would love to develop a cohesive plan and this is how education can make that happen."

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Participating universities talk with school groups, elected officials and business leaders to help connect education with the business community and see how they work together to proceed into the 21st century, he said.

OUS will host a community forum from 5 to 9 p.m. April 7 at Ohio University Southern's caucuses room in the Academic Center.

"The purpose is to look at the information and have a work session that says, OK, this is where we stand in Lawrence County and this is where we need to go," he said.

Thornton and the center have given a series of presentations and are distributing questionnaires to help determine what areas local entities need to address to help keep pace with the rest of the nation.

The center will continue collecting information and deliver it to the governor's economic summit in May.

"From a state government perspective, this is kind of a change in philosophy," he said. "Traditionally, there has been a disconnection between education and the work force. Most state policy comes from Columbus and filters out through the state. Gov. Taft is asking us to get information to help create policy."

Based on census data, Ohio is 39th in the nation in terms of degree attainment, and Ohioans make $2,400 less annually than the average American.

This initiative hopes to change that. Thornton said they hope to work with local businesses to continue training and allow Ohio to lead in the knowledge-based economy.

"Liebert is a great example. They are very interested in furthering their employees' education," he said. "Liebert is a leader in terms of understanding the connection between education and the work force."

Marty Scott, human resources manager for Liebert, said it is very important

for businesses to provide continuous training and accessibility to education.

"From our perspective, one of the things we look at trying to provide is continuous training opportunities for our associates," he said. "Often times we find people feel limited in their current jobs, so we try to give them internal training and make external training available."

Gov. Taft's plan calls for the state to continue to invest in people, provide higher-education, continuous learning and invest in research and innovation.