Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Talent Shortage Report: Ohio

Stories about employers begging for workers keep turning up in daily news searches. If true, then why aren't more incumbents pointing this out during the campaign? In Ohio:

Mark Romanchuk, president of the Richland-Ashland-Crawford Regional Manufacturer's Coalition told commissioners Tuesday training is critical, and missing in the area. ...

... Romanchuk, who owns PR Machine Works Inc. in Ontario, said technological advances and the competitive work environment have left some workers behind. He said in this area there are 130 job openings are for machinists, welders and fabricators and about 100 jobs in the mechanical engineering field.

"We can't find them," he said.

He said he and other manufacturers are part of the problem.

Romanchuk told commissioners they've been a good partner to the manufacturing community and thanked them for providing work force training dollars.

"You've been a good partner," he said. "The manufacturers have not. We have to get together. We have to step up and do our part, that's one role of the (Regional Manufacturer's Coalition)," he said. "We've been bad partners. We've had it too easy too long. We've worked in silos. Then globalization came. We can't work in silos anymore. We want to compete. We've got to work together."

Ohio has been at the forefront of the ironic tale of talent shortages. I'd figure that current state governor Ted Strickland would make political hay out of it given all the heat about jobs leaving his jurisdiction. There are bigger issues to consider.

In the Rust Belt (likely everywhere else), workforce development is dysfunctional as a result of entrenched parochial attitudes. Richard Longworth recently pointed out that this is changing given the challenges. An example of such an initiative is Corridor2020 (Eastern Iowa):

Strategic Position Statement: To harness and leverage corridor resources to achieve our vision as well as to recruit and keep talent in the region.

In December 2009, the CBA hired Mike Langley, former CEO of the Allegheny Conference in Pittsburg [sic] to facilitate a strategic planning session. The result of the session was three strategic imperatives for the region with assigned leaders and a timeline.

Again, I note that Pittsburgh is the model. The focus is on talent. Economic development will happen where the workers are in ample supply. With less geographic mobility, the Midwest has a huge advantage. Great schools and universities in this megaregion continue to crank out world class talent. However, parochial squabbling along with the misinformed brain drain discourse has handicapped most Rust Belt communities.

To digress, concern about brain drain is parochial thinking. It is a big reason why Rust Belt states and rural towns continue to struggle. They are stuck in the industrial era, when a captive labor force necessitated union representation. Geographically mobile workers don't require unions. The unemployed in Southeastern Michigan needn't travel that far to find a job. However, openings in north central Ohio remain unfilled because there isn't an upside for Michigan or Ohio politicians.

Trying to retain talent is the community screwing over its own citizens. It is also a self-destructive practice. Stop wasting time and resources on plugging the brain drain.

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