Vo-Tech schools changing as many jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified applicants

Posted at 5:15 PM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 17:43:49-04

CLEVELAND — For all of the talk about unemployment numbers Ohio leaders know there is an overlooked fact, it's not for a lack of jobs.

"We have a skills gap that exists today," Governor Mike DeWine recently told a crowd in Akron. "I cannot tell you how many different employers, as I've talked to them over the last several years, have told me I could expand, I could get the business, I could put on another shift but I can't find the people."

His predecessor, former Governor John Kasich, often lamented about the slow pace of change in education when it came to meeting those market needs.

"There are two basic institutions that I could never change," Kasich said before leaving office in January. "Education and the Pentagon."

Kasich said that a business leader like Forest City's Albert Ratner should be able to say to a school, "Let me design a curriculum for the things that I need at Forest City, and by the way, you young person, you take this curriculum and you pass it and I'm going to hire you," Kasich said.

At Auburn Career Center in Concord Township, that's what Superintendent Brian Bontempo said they are doing as the relationship between centers like theirs and the business community has evolved.

"Years ago I saw the finger pointing," Bontempo recalled of the school - business relationship. "It was 'You're not providing' or we're not educating these students to be prepared for that. Now we're working together better than ever before."

"We have advisory committees for every one of our programs, we have a team of people from the industry that work right with our teachers to make sure that our students have the best information and access to the best learning possible," he said.

"The students that come here — they don't have any problem finding jobs. They are in high demand," he said. "Often the jobs start at $40,000 and go up from there. I think that career tech education is finally getting it's due."

The programs at Auburn offer transferable college credits if the students decide to go that route.

"There's really no downside to leaving high school with a measurable skill. It gives you opportunities while you're going to college that you can perhaps work on the side or in the summertime, or it also provides you an opportunity to grow professionally as you go through college if that's what you want to do," Bontempo said. "Or so many of our careers pay so well that they're great careers if that's what you choose."