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Leaders discuss jobs

State representatives heard a variety of plans, ideas and opinions on how things could improve in Lawrence County and all southeastern Ohio on Tuesday.

Workforce development, economic development and transportation was on the agenda and it was all part of the 28th annual Ohio Legislative Day sponsored by the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I think this is a great thing that Lawrence County does,” Terry Johnson, representative for Ohio house district 90, said. “To get involved with what we are doing and be able to come together and brainstorm is fantastic. I’ve been telling the other counties in my district they need to look at what Lawrence County is doing.”

Johnson was on hand to specifically hear some of the workforce development programs happening in the county. Dr. Scott Howard addressed Johnson as well as other state officials about the Ohio Strategic Training Center’s role on developing a stronger workforce in Lawrence County.

“We’ve partnered with Loraine Community College and Ohio University Southern to bring a welding training program to Lawrence County,” Howard said. “Welding is a job that is in high demand in our area and we want to make sure we have the workforce to meet that demand.”

Howard explained how the welding training program would give participants the skills needed to obtain employment as well as college credits.

“That’s the great thing about our program,” Howard said. “When our trainees come through our program they will be getting the training necessary to get a job. They will be ready to enter the workforce. But, they will also get college credit incase they decide they want to pursue further classes and possibly obtain an associates degree.”

The Ohio STC also offers a variety of other training programs including Commercial Driver’s License courses.

“Our CDL courses are in high demand,” Howard said. “Every time we have them we have so many people interested. But, the program is costly and because of that cost we have to turn about half of the interested folks away.”

Howard was hopeful that perhaps Johnson and his peers in the state house could find some kind of funding that would allow more people to take the CDL classes.

“There is no financial aid for the CDL program because it’s so short,” Howard said. “Maybe there is something that could be done at the state level that could help lessen the cost of the program for the people who want to take it.”

Before becoming a politician Johnson was a practicing physician and at one time served as the coroner of Scioto County. He said he was encouraged by the plans and the work of the Ohio STC but also was concerned with how drug abuse affected workforce development in southeastern Ohio.

“We’ve heard some great ideas today and Dr. Howard and company are doing great things,” Johnson said. “But, something that goes hand-in-hand with developing jobs and skilled workers is combating drug addiction. As a doctor and a coroner I saw firsthand the affects drugs have had on our communities, our families and our workforce. To improve one we must also work to better fight the disease of addiction.”