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No Degree? No Problem. Ohio Wins Grant To Help Workers Develop Technical Skills

Jordan Washington switched careers to be an electrician, which he's learning on the job as part of a five-year apprenticeship.
Jordan Washington switched careers to be an electrician, which he's learning on the job as part of a five-year apprenticeship.

Ohio is one of six states chosen for a program to increase the upward mobility of adult learners. The goal of the "Educate for Opportunity" project is to train workers for technical and other jobs that are in high demand. 

Ohio will receive part of a $2.3 million grant from the National Governors Association (NGA) and Strada Education Network.

Along with Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, the state plans to use data from Strada and Gallup polling to boost pathways between education and careers.

“We’re trying to make sure that Ohioans have that first fundamental degree or equivalent so that they can then go on further with another credential, a technical degree, an associate’s degree, whatever might be best for their families and for their futures,” says Randy Gardner, chancellor of Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Gardner says while Ohioans have better-than-average numbers for having at least a high school education, a large group is still falling behind the skills needed in today’s job market. 

“There are nearly 800,000 people in Ohio who don’t have a high school diploma,” Gardner says. “And it’s difficult to get them into the workplace, difficult for them to be productive members of society.” 

Gardner says the project’s aim is to design education and training programs to improve the outcomes of adults without skills in a changing workforce. He says technical skills are in high demand.

“Most companies have at least some need in the space of computer science, data analytics and coding,” Gardner says.

Information from the project will enable Ohio to devote resources to serving students who never pursued a post-secondary education. Others may have had some college education, but never earned a degree or credential.

Gardner says Ohio has more than 3.5 million working-age adults who have yet to earn a credential after high school. He says the key is finding new sources to engage more of this population.

“We’re finding ways to enhance Ohioans who are already here, who are already in the work force or want to be, or things we can do to advance them to allow them to provide for their families and lead a better life in Ohio and keep people in Ohio," he says.

Representatives from each state will join NGA, Strada and other policy matter experts in St. Louis and formally launch the project on September 18. The program runs through March 1, 2021.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.