ASHLAND -- Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center board of education member Brian Lefelhoc says regional employers are having more difficulty filling job openings than they did prior to the start of the COVID pandemic.
Lefelhoc told the board at its regular meeting April 15 that businesses cannot find enough people to accomplish their goals, serve their customers and maintain their infrastructure.
“The field that wants to work is already employed and there are plenty more opportunities for that, so it’s not about the unemployment rate, it’s about the unemployable rate, which is about four percent,” he said. “That means it’s a zero sum and there’s no chance of it improving no matter how many ads you write, no matter how many benefits you offer.
"All you’re going to do is steal (workers) from somebody else.”
Lefelhoc said the environment has changed in terms of how people are getting paid and earning income.
“That’s something businesses are having to deal with -- luring workers back into the workplace,” he added.
Lefelhoc said his information is based on comments he has heard from businesses he has contacted through his work as a sales executive for a local advertising and marketing firm. He also said the current work climate makes it more important for the Career Center to do whatever it can to put more people in the workforce and create more opportunities for students and adults.
Career Center Superintendent Rod Cheyney said the school currently projects 410-420 high school students will be enrolled for the 2021-2022 school year.
Lefelhoc called it a “win/win” situation for students to realize the number of great opportunities waiting in the workforce.
Ashland City School District representative Brandon Wells said it also shows the importance of teaching character as part of Career Center programs.
“We want to teach character to kids so they understand the value of work and the value of providing,” he said. “That’s’ something you, Rod, and your staff can’t teach enough of how important that is.”
Adult Education director Nancy Hall said she is working on applications for two federal programs to deal with underemployment and unemployment by teaching skills to get people back into the job “pipeline.” She told the board she recently talked with a company that lost 35 of the 320 people it had hired.
“Their lowest pay rate for an unskilled worker is $16 an hour, so it’s not a minimum wage compensation issue,” she said.
In other business, the Career Center Board learned that Return Polymers of Ashland has applied for a 10-year, 75 percent abatement for $1.8 million in improvements to its PVC pipe and vinyl recycling operation on Westlake Drive.
The project includes new storage and grinding areas, new storage silos and paving and power upgrades. Officials say the company has ground and redistributed one-half billion tons of material since it has been in Ashland.
The board also accepted the resignation of Automotive Technology instructor Jake Donelson, effective August 18. Donelson replaced Jon Burkholder, who retired in mid October.
”When we interviewed him, he said he would get us through the year and we’ll see how things go,” Cheyney said. “He did a great job with the kids but he had another opportunity that came up out of state.”
The board also approved a new tuition schedule for the preschool program and new maximum fees for adult education classes. Cheyney said there is no change in the preschool tuition however, there is an increase in the number of program days for preschoolers to allow students in the Early Childhood Education program to meet certification hour requirements.