Sutton discusses job skills during local visit

VISITING GATEWAY — Betty Sutton, the Democrat lieutenant governor candidate, visited the welding lab at Eastern Gateway Community College Tuesday during a campaign swing through Eastern Ohio. She and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray spent Monday and Tuesday discussing their “Better Skills, Better Jobs” plan. Among those on the tour of the lab were state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, left, EGCC President Jimmie Bruce and Ryan Pasco, EGCC director of energy and engineering initiatives. -- Paul Giannamore

STEUBENVILLE — Flipping Ohio’s economic development focus from employers to workers is the hallmark of the “Better Skills, Better Jobs” plan unveiled this week by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray and his running mate, Betty Sutton.

The lieutenant governor candidate visited Eastern Gateway Community College Tuesday as part of a multi-stop swing through Eastern Ohio to discuss specifics of the plan.

“We will ensure that every Ohioan has the tools that they need to secure the future and support their families. We will connect workers with employers in our fastest growing industries and we will close the skills gap in a way that makes sense for Ohio,” she said.

“I think we have to look at all of our incentives and make sure they are producing the results that we want. That is really the critical point. The results we want is that the incentives that we use or the money that we’ve spent results in opportunities for people right here in your community,” she said. “We often hear incentives are going to be used and so many jobs are going to be created. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t and it’s not transparent enough for us to be able to tell.”

Ohio will have 1.6 million job openings during the next decade, Sutton said, with about all of them needing training beyond high school, though not necessarily a four-year degree.

The state won’t, by 2025, have enough trained people to take the available jobs, she said.

“Better Skills, Better Jobs” will seek a “living wage and affordable health care” for working Ohioans, she said.

The plan would reform the Office of Workforce Transformation, formed in 2012 by Gov. John Kasich, into a position that would coordinate the state’s work force development programs. She said the office has spent its time identifying the needs of employers, but not in getting workers ready to fill available jobs.

There are 14 state work force programs in Ohio, which she said “often operate in silos” that fail to communicate and coordinate their efforts.

The plan also would focus on the millions of dollars in federal work force development funds that flow into Ohio. Sutton said there was $328 million in federal work force development spending in Ohio, with the governor able to direct $50 million to support training programs. She said she and Cordray plan to spend some of that money in the state’s fastest growing sectors, including health care, education, construction, advanced manufacturing and computer systems.

She said a quarter of the jobs coming open by 2024 in Ohio will be in health care.

Sutton said she and Cordray will remain conscious that the job needs will vary from region to region.

She said more apprenticeships and the creation of lifelong training accounts will help, allowing a worker to be trained and retrained as job fields shift throughout one’s working life, after starting out without having incurred a crushing college debt load.

“There is no reason we should look with envy at apprenticeship training programs in Germany and elsewhere and think that we can’t do just as well right here. Lifelong learning and training accounts will allow workers to continue to upgrade their skills over time and, as circumstances shift through the course of life, these accounts will flow with them, from job to job, preparing them for their first career and every career that may come after that,” she said.

She said she and Cordray will not forget employers and would create a small business chief to help lead a one-stop shop to assist business owners and cut down on red tape that can overwhelm small business owners.

“Ohioans understand that the needs for work force development are growing. They know we need more electricians and plumbers, lab technicians and ironworkers, welders and laborers. They also know the skills gap does not just hurt workers. It hurts their families,” she said.

Sutton was introduced by state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, who served in the Legislature with Sutton and Cordray. He said she comes from a working-class background, and Sutton said she is the “daughter of a boilermaker and the wife of a firefighter.”

Cordary and Sutton will face the Republican ticket of Mike DeWine and Jon Husted on the Nov. 6 ballot. The winner will replace the term-limited Republican Kasich.