SOUNDING OHFF: Vocational Education Breeds Prosperity

SOUNDING OHFF gives citizens in our state the opportunity to voice praise, concern and opinions on issues that matter to them and will help lead Ohio Forward.


- Tyler Shinaberry

Ohio’s future and its potential for prosperity will be dictated by its ability to align in-demand hard and soft workforce skill-sets to its current and future needs.

Keeping within the scope of this piece, I feel that the workforce challenges facing Ohio can be simplified into “3” main scenarios:

1) Throughout Ohio employers are unable to fill both entry level and high paying jobs a. Companies must rely on costly automation and outsourcing as positions generated from normal, expected turnover remain unfilled.

b. Inability to fill jobs has led to uncertainty in growth leaving companies with no other

options than: hold growth; downsize; take substantial risk; sell/close; or move.

2) In the next 5-10 years over 40% of Ohio’s tradespeople will be retiring. This mass exodus of experience and talent will not only leave positions open, but without ample time to address it leaves no catalyst for a mentored transfer of knowledge within an organization

a. The skills possessed within many of these occupations are critical to safety,

infrastructure, and impact virtually every aspect of our modern lives.

b. By 2020, 1 in 4 in half of Ohio’s 88 counties will be 60 years of age or older

3) Communities face brain-drains in which their local talent is centralizing to areas with proactive recruitment both within and out of the state.

a. A major media outlet is advertising to use their services as the only way to find talent

within the region is to draw (steal) talent from other businesses including competitors

b. Ohio’s population growth and retention rates are indicative of a continued struggle.

While these daunting challenges are more complex than their headings, proven solutions exist and the framework needed to mold them to our regional needs and cultures exists; however, it will take a comprehensive attack from all angles to overcome them. At the heart of these solutions is an education that is rooted in a K-12 approach towards career connections, career pathways, and a migration towards career technical education (CTE) that recognizes and strongly encourages vocational education and industry sector partnerships.

“Success in the New Economy,” from Citrus College (YouTube), explains the situation well. Since the 1960s a jump in those pursuing some form of higher education has increased from 13% to 60%.

This over-saturation has does nothing to fulfill the need for the practical application of skills demanded by the economy as the economy holds a basic ratio of 1:2:7 in its job needs. This has not changed since the 1960s and is not expected to change in the future. The 1:2:7 ratio shows that for every “1” occupation that requires a master’s degree or higher, “2”

professional jobs with a university level job requirement are formed, this ultimately creates the need for “7” jobs that require a 1-year certification or 2-year degree. It is a simple matter of supply and demand; an increase in trained labor will not increase the demand, it only increases the supply of those with costly, non-applicable educations. As such, the rhetoric associated with “education for all” must be changed to reflect the need for desirable, practical, comprehensive and cross-relatable skill-sets for all through a diverse offering of CTE opportunities.

For our successors to succeed, we, as leaders, must look toward a future of shared responsibility. About twelve years ago I participated in a workforce grant development meeting as an eighteen-year-old entrepreneur who was the product of a stubborn choice to pursue vocation education over the rhetoric of promise-filled university ambitions. As things got heated, the president of the college asked for my honest opinion as a youth representative of those whose future would be most impacted by the decisions made in the grant. My answer was simple and has not changed: On one side of the room we have educators blaming policymakers and businesses for not providing enough funds/votes and not offering what they consider “good jobs”; on the other side of the room we have businesses wondering why hard earned taxes paid to policymakers are not leading to stellar employees from educators; on the final side we have a group of policymakers who don’t understand why everyone is always so darn upset but they can make it all better with higher tax revenue, more people, more schools, and a vote or two.

I concluded the remarks by stating that we all needed to accept a piece of the blame and move forward efficiently and in a way that engaged students and offered them the best opportunities for a changing future. Those who could were for us (as youth) and that those who couldn’t were against us.

Twelve years later I find myself thrilled with the advancements made within the state and the promising programs that are readily available. At the same time, I find myself disparaged so few are taking advantage of them or implementing even the most basic of steps. Under the navigation of Chairman Renacci, OHFF is poised to direct meaningful policy and help organizations utilize these efforts directly and through the efforts of companies like my own to open pathways that will develop the workforce Ohio needs to prosper.

We must remember that education is a journey and business is a destination; there is a balance between the two and lessons that can be learned from both. Here’s to developing educational policy that creates an opportunity for prosperity through engaging and retaining Ohio’s future workforce.

Tyler Shinaberry is the owner of EPIK 866-928-5167, a custom business automation solution company specializing in applied technologies for production, construction, industry, and general business. EPIK offers value through comprehensive, mechatronic solutions that fuse machinery, software, tooling, and MROP. These solutions are specifically designed to help customers maximize their extreme ROI potential.

EPIK began as an idea in JVS precision machine trades that while the industrial arena was full of excellent products and services that incorporated new technology, these interdependent technologies were siloed and often overcomplicated. What the marketplace needed was a comprehensive solution company that applied the various technologies practically and focused on value rather than hype. At the heart of this was the need for developing proficient entrepreneurs and employees that could execute the technology appropriately within their enterprise.

As such, our continued passion is to expose, encourage, and engage youth and adults to fulfill the needs of industry and find value in their self-worth. By recognizing shared needs and finding resources that address the workforce challenges facing our region, state, and nation, we are bridging the gaps between business, education, and community to defeat: an ongoing hard and soft skills gap; a looming “silver tsunami” of retirees; and a lack of recognition that the opportunity for personal, familial, and community fulfillment and advancement is found in skilled trades and entrepreneurship.

Opinions published in "Sounding OHFF" is that of the author and not necessarily of Ohio's Future Foundation.

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