LOCAL NEWS| Aug 14, 2020
By Jeremy P. Kelley
Ohio has seen recent growth, but still trails the national average
A coalition of Ohio business and education groups have a five-prong plan to improve the state’s existing shortage of workers who have college degrees and industry credentials.
Despite recent growth, only 49.2% of Ohioans hold a “high-value credential” or college degree, according to the report. That educational attainment rate is two points lower than the national average and ranks 31st of the 50 states.
Some studies have suggested a 65 percent attainment rate is key for strong economic growth going forward.
The new Bridging Ohio's Workforce Gap plan was created by The Complete to Compete Ohio Coalition — a collection of 44 business and education groups, including Learn to Earn Dayton locally.
Ohio has seen improvement in the past few years. The new report shows that Ohio’s educational attainment rate inched up by about a half-point per year in 2015, 2016 and 2017, then made a big jump, from 44.6 to 49.2 in 2018.
That aligns with data released earlier this year by the National Student Clearinghouse. That group said Ohio's six-year college completion rate rose from 53% for students entering in 2009 to 62% for those beginning college in 2013. That nine-point rise ranked second best in the country.
Learn to Earn Dayton has been working on educational attainment for years. CEO Tom Lasley said Ohio efforts are getting a continued boost because Gov. Mike DeWine is placing greater emphasis on the connection between educational attainment and the economic vitality of the state.
Lasley said he’s been listening to other states, cities and colleges that are attacking this issue. He cited three ongoing efforts that could help Ohio increase the number of residents with degrees and industry credentials. One is helping more potential college students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to make college more affordable than they think.
Another is helping lower-income students who fall behind financially and struggle to continue school or even to get their transcript released until all fees are paid. A third is helping students who started college but stopped short of a degree. Lasley said 445 students who had stopped their education re-enrolled at Sinclair Community College for spring 2020.
“The primary reasons for dropping out of Sinclair was because of work conflicts, family priorities, financial hardships, and/or illness,” he said. “Many were only one or two courses away from completing a degree.”
Lasley said by July, despite the pandemic, 45 of those students had earned a combined 19 associate degrees and 31 certificates or credentials at Sinclair. The effort is being expanded to Wright State next year.
“Now, more than ever, Ohio must be a knowledge state,”said Lisa Gray, president of Ohio Excels, which is leading the 44-member coalition. “Ohioans must have the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired through training for in-demand jobs in order to get back on their feet and thrive.”
Bridging Ohio’s Workforce Gap
The plan lists five main strategies:
** Communicate to Ohioans how higher attainment boosts the prosperity of individuals and communities;
** Better align education, the workforce and social services around in-demand careers;
** Create more affordable routes to degrees and credentials to reduce student debt strain;
** Help get students well prepared to start a career or to finish a degree/credential on time;
** Create multi-sector partnerships to improve educational and workforce attainment.