David Kilroy: Why Ohio Tech Day at SSU matters

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 27, 2021

Thursday was the inaugural Ohio Tech Day, a celebration of Ohio’s emerging tech industry.

Events like Ohio Tech Day are organized by both the public and private sector to raise awareness of the role that technology and innovation play in Ohio’s economy. OhioX, a new tech trade association for the State of Ohio, is leading the charge on this vision.

Digital technology will be the engine of new job growth in the coming decades, and it is important that we inspire our next generation of tech leaders. Today’s high school students need to learn skills that utilize digital technologies to compete in the workforce. To be truly competitive, students must practice through hands-on, applied learning experiences and incorporate soft skills to work on cross-disciplinary teams.

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How prevalent are these skills in today’s landscape? According to national employment data, more than 8 out 10 middle-skill jobs currently require digital skills, representing 1/3 of all job postings. These jobs also pay more than non-digital middle-skill jobs.

What about our local community? According to data compiled by the Center on Rural Innovation, the workforce of the average Ohio city employed in digital jobs is 15 percent; while in Scioto County it is only 4 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 98 percent of all tech jobs created since 2007 are in metropolitan areas.

But there is an opportunity to do better. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that many of these jobs can be performed remotely without sacrificing productivity. In fact, within the next decade, a majority of companies and departments are expected to employ remote workers. As a result, many smaller communities are creating their fair share of digital tech positions and southern Ohio can follow suit. Access to educational opportunities for in-demand digital skills is key to making this happen.

And, effective learning requires access to resources and expertise, connection to a community of like-minded individuals and structure and support for measuring and attaining learning objectives. Next spring, the Shawnee State University Kricker Innovation Hub will complete a $3.5 million transformation and open its doors as the focal point for a community seeking to engage in innovative learning, new ventures development and the enjoyment of new creative pursuits.

The Kricker Innovation Hub is a champion of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. SSU recently partnered with the Center on Rural Innovation and was named one of five communities nationwide to receive a VISTA grant for advancing digital skilling initiatives over the next year. This project will expand pathways for learning and job placement as we work with peer communities to share knowledge and implement solutions at scale. This critical piece of infrastructure will make it possible for our local community to engage with a broader nationwide digital economy.

This was the first Ohio Tech Day. It represented an opportunity to reflect on trends shaping the future.

This time next year, the Kricker Innovation Hub will be able to host a celebration in person. For now, we are focused on building our tomorrow.

If you’d like to get involved or learn more about the programs and entrepreneur support services the Kricker Innovation Hub and our partners offer, contact David Kilroy at dkilroy2@shawnee.edu or visit ssuinnovation.com.

David Kilroy is the program director for the Kricker Innovation Hub at Shawnee State University.