ASHLAND — Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted visited Ashland on Wednesday to deliver a speech at the North Central Workforce Alliance Summit about how businesses, governments, and schools can face Ohio’s workforce problems.

According to Husted, Ohio and its bordering states have fewer working age people than 10 years ago. By 2030, Ohio will have even fewer working age people than the state has today.

Also, he said that while Ohio currently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in its history, there are still fewer people working than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pie is shrinking. So what does that mean? It means that we must, we must make sure that we leave nobody behind and nobody on the bench and not in the game if we can do anything about it,” he said.

Husted anticipates that employers’ demand for engineers, factory workers, tech workers, and construction workers will increase in the future due in part to Ohio’s new Intel plant.

“They’ll have enough structural steel to make eight Eiffel Towers, they’ll have enough concrete to build two skyscrapers. That’s what’s in these facilities. They’re not going anywhere. Once they build it they’re here to stay,” Husted said.

He touted Ohio’s TechCred program, which he helped create, as a possible solution to some of Ohio’s workforce woes. 

Under the TechCred program, businesses can get reimbursed up to $30,000 from the state for helping employees earn new technical credentials. 

“If you’re not using it, you should be,” Husted said.

He also brought up Ohio’s Industry-Recognized Credentials program where career centers receive a $1,250 bonus from the state for every qualifying credential a student earns from their school.

While the state handles these big programs, it’s up to local communities to meet their unique workforce needs, he added.

To that end, Husted recommends industry sector partnerships where businesses, educators, and community leaders work together to address an area’s workforce needs.

“It’s everybody doing their part and being excellent at what they’re doing and integrating that with other people and when you do that, you win. That’s what happens in a workforce development system in your community,” he said.

He also encouraged local authorities to use some of their extra American Rescue Plan Money to beef up their community’s infrastructure to attract new housing developments for workers to live in. 

Near the end of his speech, Husted claimed that the federal government creates disincentives for people to work and he plans to “knock down some the barriers the federal government has created” if he and Gov. DeWine are re-elected.

He pointed to the Social Security disability program, which provides supplemental income to over 9.5 million disabled Americans, as a federal program that keeps people out of the workforce.

“We have more people on disability than we’ve ever had before even though technology has made it easier to work, jobs are easier, you don’t require as much physical skill as you once did,” he said.

According to data from the Social Security Administration, the number of Americans receiving disability payments actually peaked around 2014.

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