Education will be key to Ohio’s success

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Government cannot guarantee economic success, but it can provide tools to help foster job creation and business growth.

Perhaps the most important of these tools, particularly in today’s highly competitive, global marketplace, is education.

In recent years, the Ohio General Assembly and other state leaders have focused on improving resources and strengthening academic standards for students in kindergarten through high school.

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In addition, we have taken steps to stabilize college tuition costs and better utilize all our state’s post-secondary education institutions.

These efforts are part of a long-term strategy designed to create a seamless education system in Ohio that better prepares young people to compete for jobs and grow personally and professionally.

My father and grandfather worked at the same place for decades with little change in technology.

Nowadays, products and processes change very rapidly, and if employers, workers and investors are not prepared, their livelihood could be in jeopardy.

A quality, accessible education system is crucial to ensure Ohio’s workforce has the training needed to adapt.

With this in mind, my colleagues and I in the legislature have focused on ways to link students with co-op and internship opportunities at businesses across the state.

The hope is that these experiences will arm Ohio’s young people with the skills necessary to secure a job after school, give talented college graduates an incentive to stay and work in Ohio and help make our state a more attractive place for companies to locate and expand.

Ohio’s Third Frontier Internship Program has already helped place thousands of interns from all over the country with businesses in the 17th District and across the state.

In addition, during deliberations on the recent casino implementation bill, the House and Senate earmarked a portion of the $200 million in licensing fees from the four casinos for co-ops and internships, giving more students a chance to gain valuable career skills and helping to build a stronger workforce for Ohio employers.

While our state’s big universities, such as Ohio State and Ohio University, often get much of the attention, our smaller community and private colleges also play a key role in educating students and preparing them to succeed in all sectors of our workforce.

Southern State Community College and Rio Grande Community College, for example, provide access to job training and retraining for people of all ages in southern Ohio and the surrounding region.

Wilmington College is also doing its part by creating innovative programs to expand access to an education for students of all backgrounds.

Another critical job training resource for Ohioans is our state’s career colleges and proprietary schools.

These institutions provide a fast, flexible and quality education for many traditional and non-traditional students, allowing them to earn a degree and start working after only one or two years of study.

However, despite boasting a high job placement rate, career and proprietary schools have been excluded many times from receiving state financial assistance.

Earlier this spring, I introduced Senate Bill 256, bipartisan legislation which would designate a portion of the casino licensing fees to provide need-based grants, similar to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, for career college students studying a number of different fields. These funds are constitutionally-mandated to be spent on workforce development initiatives.

As we continue to face tough economic times and prepare to deal with historic budget challenges in the months ahead, Ohio needs to devote our very limited resources to efforts that will grow the economy, and perhaps nothing is more important to Ohio’s future economic success than the quality and accessibility of our education system from kindergarten to high school to all levels of post-secondary training.

After all, the strength of Ohio’s workforce is our best asset in keeping and creating jobs.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.