When Amylin Pharmaceuticals chose Butler County to open a manufacturing plant, part of the deal was state officials promised to attract similar technology companies to build a high-tech talent pool and develop job training programs.
Since 2005, Amylin has created about 300 jobs to manufacture its innovative diabetes drug and company officials said they have not been hard pressed to find manufacturing workers or biologists, engineers and chemists.
State legislators said they want more success stories like Amylin. They are pushing as aggressively this year to improve job training programs and funding for the programs as they did in 2011 on business attraction and retention, according to state Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Twp.
The end result could mean it will become easier for people like Jamel Stanford, 30, a Fairfield worker, to identify, access and pay for job training programs in critical industries, such as advanced manufacturing, technology and bioscience, Derickson said.
“We found that very attractive in selecting our site, as well as being able to identify local talent to help not only build the facility, but bring us to the position where we are today where we’re launching our product worldwide,” said Amylin Human Resources Director Kristin Martin.
Stanford will be laid off Feb. 15 from the Fairfield Pella entry-door manufacturing plant after eight years. Pella’s closure will cause 198 total job cuts.
“I don’t have the money right now to focus on school. I don’t have the time because I have two kids,” Stanford said.
Unemployed and underemployed workers will likely have to go back to school for a degree or certificate to get new job opportunities, Derickson said. It may mean taking a job that the person doesn’t want temporarily to pay the bills while completing the training, he said.
Work force development will be key to solving the state’s skills gap, Derickson said. Butler and Warren counties have more than 1,000 open jobs, according to OhioMeansJobs.com.
Yet Butler County’s average unemployment rate in 2011 was 9 percent, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
All the tax incentives the state can muster can’t help businesses if people don’t have the skills to do the work, Derickson said.
“I’m hoping that folks are prepared, willing to go back to school or certainly to reach out to providers of education that equip people with the skills to find a job,” Derickson said. “Many people don’t realize the opportunities that exist, let alone have the skills to do them.”
Efforts are already underway to look at the state forming one agency focused on work force development. A new program could be in place within the year that lets people on unemployment benefits continue to receive compensation while doing job training at no cost to employers.
Derickson plans to introduce state legislation to urge the U.S. Congress this year to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, but give the state more control over how it spends its money. The federal Workforce Investment Act is the source of most of the funding for Workforce One of Butler County.
“You can’t tell me Ohio and California have the exact same needs,” he said.
Ohio received approximately $105 million in Workforce Investment Act funding this fiscal year, the lowest amount since the act was implemented, said Bruce Madson, Ohio Job and Family Services employment services assistant director. In the 2009 fiscal year, Ohio received about $140 million.
Madson said rules instituted in WIA prevent significant funding investments in workers who are already employed; limits eligibility for youth work programs to low income youth only; and has a major focus on money for physical locations of job centers, for example.
“Everything is about jobs right now. We can’t have a situation where there are jobs available in the community and unemployed people and we can’t bring them together. We know in many cases that’s what we’re facing. That’s going to be the challenge in the coming years,” he said.
Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2551 or email@example.com.
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