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Ohio Job Market Suffers Tech Disconnect

Ohio's job market suffers from a kind of disconnect. A new report shows a technology gap between the needs of employers and the technological competence of workers. Before sunrise on a recent week-day, 31 year old Damian Harris of Columbus is out looking for a job. His current part-time job will soon end. So he's looking for a fulltime job or a couple of part time jobs to string together. On this day Harris drove to a Labor Ready office to speed his search.

"Even if you don't go online to fill out an application you can still, as long as you're active, you can still find a job if you go out and fill out an application that way," says Harris.

But looking for work offline is a longshot. Angela Terez of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says employers post thousands of jobs on its sponsored website. "And on any given day at least 60,000 jobs are listed and you can search by key words or location or preferred salary. Lots of different search fields," says Terez. Harris says he has looked for jobs online but it's not always possible to complete the application with his older home computer. "It doesn't work with the pop-ups with my computer. So, of course you would have to allow those to come through," says Harris. Harris' struggles with technology are shared by millions of working age Ohioans. A report by the non-profit group, Connect Ohio, counts 2-point 7 million working age Ohioans who struggle with some computer-related tasks required by employers or government agencies. Stu Johnson is head of Connect Ohio. "I remain disturbed by the facts. It's always startling to me. You know, people will say you can't tell me in this day and age that people don't know how to use the computer they are all on the cellphone and texting," says Johnson. Connect Ohio advocates use of technology and high-speed internet connection. It's 4-point-3 million dollar operating budget is funded mostly by federal and state government grants or contracts. It's report on technology claims nearly 40 percent of working age Ohioans…ages 18 to 64 lack critical computer know-how. To further make his point. Johnson tells of a recent training session with a group of laid-off workers.

"We were part of the Ohio transition team for a recent factory lay-off and there were 700 displaced workers. 53% asked for paper applications for job benefits. 53% could not go online to get their job benefits," says Johnson.

Johnson adds that gaps in digital literacy are not limited to displaced factory workers. As part of its contract services with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Connect Ohio has trained 45,000 Ohioans, including some doctors making the switch to electronic medical records.