Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine sent a powerful message to Ohio families recently with the introduction of his first biennial state budget. His budget priorities make it clear — the pathway to a rewarding job doesn’t require an expensive degree from a four-year university.
As part of his proposed $200 million investment in the state’s workforce training efforts, Gov. DeWine is asking state lawmakers for funds to create 25,000 additional industry-recognized credentials, which would allow incumbent workers to quickly qualify for jobs in growing industries. For the faculty and staff at Northwest State Community College, this is welcome news and a strong validation for what we have been building here to help our local businesses find the skilled workers they need.
For years, Northwest State has been working closely with our area businesses and industries to determine the type of programs we can offer that will lead to long-term careers in northwest Ohio. Through that collaboration, we have progressively grown the number of degree and short-term certificate programs (those taking less than 12 months to complete), opening pathways for exciting new careers such in advanced manufacturing, robotics, cybersecurity, information technology, logistics and nursing — to just to name a few. And, the best news is that our graduates leave with their desired degree or credential in hand, but with little — if any — debt.
Ohio’s community colleges know that workforce development is the most critical element for our state’s economic well-being in this new, technology-driven world. That makes our campuses ground zero in the effort to prepare workers for in-demand jobs and careers. This is a responsibility we take very seriously, knowing our success will help Ohio continue to grow, diversify and add jobs. Our board of trustees, faculty and staff are determined to keep Northwest State on the leading edge of this effort.
And we can point with great pride to our progress and success to date. Over the past several years, Ohio’s 23 community college have seen an 8.5% increase in the number of students earning credentials, including a 22.5% increase in students earning one-year certificates. NSCC has contributed to that success story.
This strong pace of growth is a credit to our students’ hard work and success, but it’s also a strong testament to our colleges’ ability to respond quickly to local workforce needs. It also highlights the value of state government’s performance-based funding formula for higher education, wisely put in place several years ago by the Ohio General Assembly to reward graduation, completion and student success.
But the real measure of our success isn’t a matter of percentages and statistics. It’s told in the achievements of the growing numbers of adult learners who are taking advantage of Northwest State’s short-term certificates and flexible programs to develop new skills. One such example is John Cooper, who, after a ride-along with a friend who was a sheriff’s deputy, decided to trade in factory life for a new career. John completed the Northwest State Law Enforcement Academy and earned a degree in criminal justice. Today, he’s a school resource officer for Holgate Schools and also serves as an officer with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.
There are so many similar student success stories on the Northwest State campus, and thanks to the vision of the DeWine administration there will be many more to share in the years ahead.
(Today’s guest columnist is Dr. Michael Thomson, president of Northwest State Community College.)