’Berg speaker highlights workforce challenges

PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY Lisa Nelson talks to local business leaders and students at the Heidelberg University School of Business’ State of the Economy series Tuesday.

Workforce development was the focus of Heidelberg University School of Business’ State of the Economy biannual series.

Lisa Nelson, community development advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, was the keynote speaker Tuesday.

Nelson coordinates the strategic development and execution of  Fed research initiatives and conducts data analysis and applied research on issues impacting low- and moderate-income communities.

She also has been a senior policy analyst, focusing  on workforce development and neighborhood stabilization.

Nelson discussed case studies and research projects the Federal Reserve Bank has conducted to address challenges facing the workforce and job seekers.

David Zak, CEO and president of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. and Berg Business Board member, said the series is part of bringing the Heidelberg School of Business into the community.

“It isn’t about being just concerned with these four walls, but having the knowledge to become a leader,” he said.

Zak said the topic of workforce development has been a critical issue in the area. A Tiffin workforce development study found 70 percent of companies couldn’t find the talent they needed.

The Fed studies focused on the Federal Reserve Bank’s Fourth District, which includes Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia.

The studies sought information on how education and training was used to alleviate poverty; workforce issues within the district;  under-educated workers and an aging workforce; and specialized occupations.

Nelson said a study titled “Prospects of Non-College-Bound Workers” found the average wage of a worker with a bachelor’s degree was 1.4 to 2.2 times the average overall wage in 2011.

She said although increasing the number of college graduates is desirable for the economic health of a region, it also is important to make sure high school graduates learn the analytical and soft skills and receive the guidance needed to access technical and service jobs.

“It is important to get the information out there as early as possible to students,” Nelson said.

Other challenges facing the workforce include policy, funding, training needs, pipelines, aging of the workforce, information gaps  and employability of lower-skilled workers.

The studies Nelson cited can be found online at www.clevelandfed.org.