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Workforce Report | Working Class

February 17th, 2022

As many of you know, before coming to the Chamber in 2018, I worked for 15 years in public education. In my case, those years were spent with Eastland Fairfield Career and Technical Schools in a role that allowed me to connect businesses to high school students.

The aspect of the job I loved most was connecting students to workplaces that were open and willing to onboard them with intention and invest in their development. That certainly was a win for both the student and the employer, as the company could then tap into an emerging workforce; rich with ideas for innovation, enthusiasm for learning, and the continued support of a teacher and an entire school system devoted to their work based success. That commitment from the school often resulted in solutions to barriers like transportation, workplace attire, necessary equipment/tools, etc.

As we all continue to fight the battle for talent, one thing is abundantly clear. We need to train more people to fill the current 11 million job openings in the U.S. Many of those positions are seeking skills that may not demand a Bachelor’s degree. And right now, Gen Z is considering all of their options for career and lifestyle. What is happening is a sea change from the days of “the only path to success is a 4-year college degree”.

A recent poll conducted by the ECMC Group took a pulse of what teens are thinking. The results?

  • 50% are open to something other than a 4-year degree
  • 74% think a career-based education makes sense
  • 65% are confident in their future…if they find the right career path for themselves

When asked specifically about their thoughts on career and technical education?

  • 72% said their top college concern was being saddled with student loan debt
  • 80% of the careers they want can be attained through career tech education
  • 87% indicate that true success is tied to working in a job that is their passion
  • 70% are seeking apprenticeship style education vs. 4-year degree

We are blessed in Central Ohio to be home to so many amazing high school programs that offer career tech education and work-based opportunities for our youth. The Columbus Chamber values their work, as an asset to our business community and an answer to creating more financial stability and equity in the Region. Below is a sample of some of our strategic partners:

  • Columbus City Schools
  • Cristo Rey Columbus
  • Delaware Area Career Center
  • Eastland Fairfield Career and Technical Schools
  • Knox County Career Center
  • Pickaway Ross Career Center
  • Southwestern City Schools

We will explore the possibilities and opportunities to engage with high school students at our next Experience series event on March 16.

Kelly Fuller Headshot

Kelly Fuller 
Vice President of Talent & Workforce Development 
KellyFuller@columbus.org