‘Ohio to Work’ Launches to Address Unemployment

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In an effort to connect unemployed Ohioans with available jobs, the state has launched its Ohio To Work program.

The collaborative effort brings together employers, nonprofits, educators and training providers to help residents reskill and restart careers, said Gov. Mike DeWine during his Tuesday briefing. The program is designed to help individuals identify new career opportunities, get the training that’s required and place them with an employer, he said.

“We know it can be a challenge to find a job right now,” DeWine said. “But we also know that employers are hiring in industries such as health care, technology and advanced manufacturing.”

Career coaches will identify each participant’s skills and help them find any additional training they need for a job. Thus far, more than 30 employers have committed to work with the initiative and its partners and to interview program participants, the governor said.

Last Thursday, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services – one of the program partners – reported just shy of 18,000 new unemployment claims filed for the week ended Sept. 5, along with 328,525 continued claims. Since the coronavirus pandemic began affecting Ohio 25 weeks ago, there have been 1,682,061 initial unemployment claims filed in the state, the agency reported.

“More than 500,000 Ohioans have been displaced since March,” said JP Nauseef, president and chief investment officer of Jobs Ohio, another program partner.

Among the hardest hit is Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland area, where the Ohio To Work program will be piloted, Nauseef said.. The unemployment rate in Cuyahoga County is 12.9%, the highest in the state and representing more than 13% of the total unemployment average in the state, he said.

While Jobs Ohio isn’t typically involved in workforce development in the state, “This is a time of exceptional need” and its board of directors agreed that if the agency could help, it should, Nauseef said.

Jobs Ohio, Job and Family Services, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and the Ohio Development Services Agency will leverage the state’s workforce development ecosystem to “delivery comprehensive yet personal training, career placement and other services that Ohioans need and they deserve,” he said.

In addition to the participating employers who also helped design the program, Ohio To Work will rely heavily on technology, including artificial intelligence, to help put people on a path to a “sustainable, higher paying, new career,” he said. The program will also host virtual job fairs as early as October.

Of those unemployed in Cuyahoga County, 40% are Black, compared to 20% statewide. Thus, the initiative has also partnered with the Urban League and Goodwill “to ensure representation, communication and equal access with underrepresented populations,” Nauseef said.

“We believe for Ohio’s recovery to be sustainable, it must be inclusive of all Ohioans,” he said.

For more information on how to participate, go to OhioToWork.com.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.