What should Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates be talking about? A paper by researchers at The Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs, emphasizes that the future of Ohio’s economy should be a top priority for the gubernatorial candidates and other politicians seeking election this November.
The paper called, Toward a New Ohio, takes an in-depth look at the fall of state per capita income over the last 63 years: from nine percent above the national average to nine percent below. A majority of this decline has been the result of a loss of high paying manufacturing jobs. Due to technological advancements, Ohio factories can achieve record breaking production levels, with nearly half the workers once need for production. Increased foreign and domestic competition also impacts local economies struggling to keep up with national economic growth.
For Ohio’s economic outlook to improve, Ohio must develop new industries and products to support families and a workforce that is more educated than ever before. The report examines the “skills gap,” which suggests that there is a gap between skills employers are looking for and the skills potential workers in Ohio have. With the nature of this gap so difficult to estimate, adding more jobs will not necessarily fix the issue. Vacancies currently exist in both low and high paying skilled jobs. The authors write that policymakers must have a concise game plan to address this growing gap by creating jobs that meet the skills of Ohio’s growing workforce. They must also cultivate a better understanding of both the hard and soft skills required by future jobs, so the workforce can be better prepared for what is to come.
The largest employment gains are projected to come in the healthcare industry, particularly home-health aides, followed by the accommodations and food service industries. While growth in these areas of the job market will likely increase employment, these jobs will not likely generate the higher incomes needed to improve quality of life in Ohio.
The paper also addresses what they call “the elephant in the room:” the vast number of Ohioans struggling with opioid addiction who are not able to work. The CDC estimates 90,000 Ohioans currently abuse opioids. This is a problem for employers looking to find employees who are drug free. Addressing the opioid epidemic will be crucial in restoring the workforce to its full potential. The opioid crisis highlights how candidates’ plans for the economy need to be multifaced.
The paper highlights the importance for Ohio’s next Governor to have a strategic and detailed stance on the future of the state’s economy, while also aiming to breakdown a complex subject so voters can have a clear understanding of what to expect from Ohio’s next governor. The “Twelve Questions for Ohio’s Next Governor,” included by the authors, could guide and enrich the debate between gubernatorial candidates as well as candidates for other offices.