Last updated: August 25. 2013 9:22AM - 527 Views

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LIMA — Area business and job skills educators made their pitch Tuesday for more help from the state in making workforce development a top priority in Columbus.

Panelists from across the region made their pitches as part of a joint session of the Ohio Senate Workforce and Economic Development Committee and the Ohio House Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee at Apollo Career Center.

“We’re really excited to be here in Allen County and the Lima area. We’ve heard so many good things about what you’re doing here in the area of workforce development,” said Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, chair of the House committee. “In the last session of the General Assembly, I chaired the Ohio House 21st Century Manufacturing Task Force. Our task force crisscrossed the state for about six months. The one thing we really heard was that we need a well-educated, well-trained workforce. I know what they are doing here at the Apollo Career Center is just that.”

Gene Heitmeyer, general manager for Diamond Manufacturing in Bluffton, said there is a skills crisis, and it is a situation that likely won’t fix itself.

“While we cannot wave a wand and fill every job opening in an instant, investing in career technical and higher education as a solution to achieving a skilled workforce clearly deserves a high priority in our approaches to lowering unemployment,” said Heitmeyer, who also chairs the Lima-Allen County Chamber of Commerce Manufacturing Council. “Ohio is facing a growing shortage of skilled workers that threatens our economic competitiveness. Now is the time to invest in Ohio, while U.S. manufacturing is in the early stages of renaissance. Businesses like mine need higher-skilled workers to compete and grow out of this recession.”

One approach to bridging the skills gap, the panelists said, is investing in high school and adult programs at facilities such as Apollo Career Center and Vantage Career Center.

“Before I started at Apollo Career Center, I was just an average student with limited goals after graduation. Today, I am proud to be the state historian of SkillsUSA, an ambassador for Apollo Career Center and Automated Manufacturing Technology program,” said Jeff Horner, a senior student at Apollo. “I have excelled here. They not only gave me the knowledge to run a CNC machine, they taught me leadership, public speaking and most importantly confidence. I have the academic and technical skills to succeed in college and career.”

Jim Miller, president of Miller Precision Manufacturing in Ottoville, agreed the investment must be made to get businesses like his more skilled workers.

“Keeping up with technology is very important to stay competitive in world markets,” Miller said. “All the technology in the world will not work if there is not a trained work force that can run this technology.”

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