Ohio Adapts TechCred Program to Economy Changed by Virus

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With record-high unemployment rates brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the state is modifying its TechCred program to help train Ohioans.

When the TechCred program was announced in September, it only was available to people who were employed. The modified program will allow those who are not working to earn technology-focused credentials, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said during a press briefing Thursday. 

“We built that program with essentially a 4% unemployment rate where businesses couldn’t find enough people,” said Husted, who serves as director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. “Now, in a COVID world, we have a 16% unemployment rate. People have had their lives disrupted and many things have changed.”

The program aims to expand training for people who are underskilled and to help businesses improve the technology skills of their workforce. The state will reimburse up to $2,000 for a technology–focused credential. To be eligible, credentials must take less than a year to acquire and be industry recognized, Husted said.

“That’s the new future in the economy. The nature of work is changing quickly. Technology is changing quickly. People’s skills need to change quickly along with this and the program we have with TechCred is designed to this,” Husted said. “In this post-COVID world that we are looking toward, these skills are going to be more vital than ever.”

The program has 753 industry approved credentials. At least 411 can be approved through distance learning or workplace learning.

Awards should have been made in April, but were delayed because of efforts to combat COVID-19, Husted said. Five hundred employers have been approved for reimbursement under TechCred.

To support the changing needs of businesses during the pandemic recovery, other changes also were made to the TechCred program.

  • To make TechCred more flexible for upskilling new hires, employers are no longer required to list employee names when applying for TechCred. Instead, they will identify the number of current or prospective employees they will upskill.
  • To account for possible staffing changes, employers who were approved  in the October 2019, January 2020 and March 2020 rounds of TechCred may now substitute employees listed in their original application.
  • Employers approved in October 2019 and January 2020, who had credential programs interrupted by the crisis, may request to extend their 18-month award eligibility timeline.
  • Employees can now earn multiple credentials during each application period.

The fourth application period begins June 1 and runs through June 30. Both employers and prospective employees can apply. To learn more, visit TechCredOhio.gov.

The need for increased training and credentialing in health care, manufacturing and construction, military applications and information technology was a cornerstone of the program, but changes that have occurred during the pandemic heighten the need to upskill prospective employees in software development, robotics and automation and cybersecurity. 

“If you talk to many businesses, they are going to be very selective in their hiring decisions for the near future and tech skills are going to be even more in demand,” Husted said. “There is reason for hope even though we are going through a difficult time, businesses are starting to think about that future, people are starting to think about the future of their careers and this is a tool for you to use to take advantage of the programs that are available, the resources that have been made available and the opportunities the two combined can create.” 

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.