Continuous learning culture is key to Ohio’s success


Ryan D. Burgess - Guest Columnist



You and I may not be ready, but by the year 2021, it’s predicted we will be sharing the roads with a variety of driverless vehicles. Soon, drones will deliver packages to our doorsteps. These and other innovations, including artificial intelligence and robotics, will continue to have a profound and positive impact on Ohio. They also are affecting our current and future workforce, jobs, and the skills needed for those jobs. And for this turn of events, we – and the state of Ohio – must be ready.

To keep up with the speed of business and innovation, today’s workforce environment demands a culture of “continuous learning,” a fundamental understanding of creative and innovative ways of thinking, combined with the desire to learn new skills. To create this culture, we must closely connect those who teach the skills with those who hire for them. This is why Gov. Kasich’s proposed budget focuses heavily not only on innovation, but on uniting businesses and educators in the shared goal of preparing Ohioans for successful futures in the 21st century workplace.

Many of us grew up in an age where the norm was to go to school for a defined period of time, work for a number of years, and retire. Those days are gone. Individuals are now undergoing multiple career changes throughout the course of their working lives, and often between industries or areas of expertise. Because the culture of work is evolving, the way we approach training for work must evolve as well.

It has been estimated that 65 percent of grade school students will work in jobs that do not yet exist and for those in the workforce, traditional manufacturing jobs are continuing to be phased out due to technological advances. Sixty years ago, the average tenure of a company on the S&P 500 was 61 years. Today, the average is 15 years. At this rate, by 2027, 75 percent of the S&P 500 will be replaced. Tesla, a company created only a few years ago, recently exceeded the market value of 115-year-old Ford Motor Company. This velocity of change will only quicken. Ohio must undergo a paradigm shift by strengthening our efforts to continuously prepare and retrain Ohioans for the technology-intensive jobs of today and tomorrow.

Shifting Ohio’s education and workforce training systems to a culture of “continuous learning” will not happen overnight, but we must take strides in the right direction to keep up with the needs of business.

That’s why Gov. Kasich challenged his executive workforce board, a group of leaders from across the state representing business, education, non-profit, and labor, as well as members of the Ohio legislature, to identify ways to better prepare and retrain Ohioans of all ages for current and future jobs. Last fall, the board members reached into their local communities to determine Ohio’s most urgent workforce challenges. Through the feedback they received, board members saw a clear gap between employer expectations and worker capabilities and identified steps to address this disconnect between career education and training and the needs of businesses.

Through this exercise, the board presented the governor with a number of recommendations, which ultimately became the foundation for Gov. Kasich’s workforce budget proposals that are currently being deliberated in the Ohio Legislature.

Key initiatives include enhancing Ohio’s efforts to give high school and college credit to students who engage in work-related experiences, offering more opportunities for Ohioans to access job-training and education resources, delivering short-term training solutions, and working to align education with in-demand skills and jobs. Expanding access to opportunities which provide real world, hands-on experience, such as apprenticeship programs and internships, combined with mentorship opportunities such as Community Connectors, will equip Ohio’s job seekers with the technical and soft skills required by businesses today.

As technology continues to improve convenience and overall quality of life, Ohio must commit to growing alongside these dramatic changes. There is no better time to focus our efforts on transforming Ohio’s workforce. Uniting businesses and educators to prepare all Ohioans for the workforce is the key to our state’s prosperity. When our focus is on giving Ohioans of all ages opportunities for success, Ohio’s employers, diverse local economies, and communities all benefit.

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Ryan D. Burgess

Guest Columnist

Ryan D. Burgess is director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation.

Ryan D. Burgess is director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation.