Valley Among 5 Areas for Expansion of ‘Ohio to Work’ Program

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley is among five communities where the state of Ohio is expanding a program to connect people to job skills training and employment opportunities. 

The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and Team NEO will serve as regional sponsors of the Ohio to Work initiative, which will also expand to Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati and Dayton. 

“Since workforce development is by far the No. 1 issue facing our members and pretty much every employer in the Valley, there’s nothing that we can do as a business organization that is more important,” said Guy Coviello, the Regional Chamber’s president and CEO.

Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef announced the expansion of the program to the Valley in a news release Wednesday morning.  

Led by JobsOhio, Ohio’s private economic development corporation, Ohio to Work initially launched in Cleveland a year ago as a pilot initiative to provide those seeking employment with career opportunities that increase income and improve quality of life. 

The program has reached several thousand job seekers across the state, providing pathways to in-demand jobs through personalized career coaching, accelerated training options, local employer connections, career tools and more.

“The Ohio to Work initiative helps employers access a skilled and highly-trained workforce while providing job seekers access to well-paying, long-lasting careers,” DeWine said in the announcement. “By expanding this innovative, partnerships-based program, we’ll be able to give more Ohioans access to the tools and support they need to find meaningful employment and support Ohio’s rapid and equitable economic resurgence.”

The program helps job seekers “upskill so they can find opportunities that will improve their quality of life now and set them up for future success,” Husted added. 

“With the expansion of this program, more Ohioans – and more Ohio businesses – can benefit from the workforce pipeline created through the partnerships and connections developed by this initiative,” the lieutenant governor continued. 

Ohio to Work currently has more than 70 employers who are committed to hiring job seekers, according to the statement. Nearly a dozen training providers also support the initiative by providing people with workforce-aligned training solutions in a wide-range of areas including computer numerical control machining, software coding, healthcare technology, nursing assistance and more. 

MVMC will serve as the program’s operations manager locally, overseeing the local coaching and training partners and helping get businesses to participate, said Jessica Borza, the coalition’s executive director. It will amplify messaging around in-demand jobs and training opportunities and connect interested job seekers with coaches who can guide them through decisions about their career paths. 

“The additional emphasis that Ohio to Work is putting on in-demand jobs and the related training opportunities in the region is really going to be helpful to make sure that people that could benefit from being connected to these jobs, advancement opportunities and good pay have a good understanding of where the jobs are and how they can get connected,” she said. 

The Regional Chamber “will bring the employers to the table,” Coviello said. A couple dozen businesses already are prepared to participate, and a kickoff event for employers is planned for Sept. 28, Borza and Coviello said. 

Local partners in the program will include Flying High Inc.’s Professional Development Center and United Returning Citizens Inc., as well as the Ohio Means Jobs offices serving Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties.  

“It could be an unprecedented time in the Valley, where there are more jobs than people. We are not used to that here,” said Jeff Magada, Flying High executive director. “To now have good-paying jobs that can change people’s quality of life is a tremendous accomplishment for the Valley. Now people just need to get connected to them.”

The Ohio to Work program will provide Flying High with “resources for us to do better what we’re already doing” with job coaching and training,  Magada said.

Dionne Dowdy, executive director of United Returning Citizens, which helps reintegrate individuals who have been incarcerated back into society, also praised the initiative.  

“By partnering with Ohio to Work, URC will be better able to serve our community and make sure they have success in the workforce,” she said. “Through career coaching, we will be able to make sure our people get on, and stay on, the track to a stable, well-paying career.”

Job seekers and employers from Cleveland already report that the pilot program has created career pathways for several people, “and we look forward to intensifying this work across the state,” Nauseef said in the announcement.

“The need for short-term, industry-aligned skills training has never been more important and this is why Ohio to Work has convened partners with the existing industry connections and access to employers,” he continued. “Our partners are committed to an equitable economic recovery and building back our communities stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

Job seekers can connect with Ohio to Work partners by visiting OhioToWork.com. Employers looking to reach out to workers can learn more at OhioToWork.com/employers.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.