A Strategy for Addressing Workforce and Talent in Ashtabula County

The aging workforce issue and young talent retention and attraction issue are related when building a “workforce for the future” strategy for Ashtabula County. Local employers, economic developers, educators, and workforce developers are well aware of these issues. The key is finding the right strategy and team to deal with these issues in Ashtabula County. One of the Growth Partnership’s strategic thrust areas in its new action plan is “Workforce, Talent, and Education.” We will be giving major attention to this area this year and on an ongoing basis. This article helps set the context for our strategy in this area. The key elements of our strategy for moving forward are discussed in this article.

It’s important for Ashtabula County to have an informed strategy for dealing with these issues. Knowing bigger picture trends and localizing them to Ashtabula County is useful in this regard. For this reason, we call attention to recent work by Gallup on the aging workforce issue.

According to a new Gallup study, the first members of the huge baby-boom generation in the U.S. have reached retirement age in recent years, and these older boomers are retiring in large numbers, just as Americans in their mid- to late 60s did a few years earlier. While about eight in 10 boomers in their early 50s are in the workforce, the percentage employed drops to about 50% for boomers who are 60, and the proportion accelerates downward with each year of age thereafter. Only about a third of those aged 67 and 68 — the oldest boomers — are still working in some capacity.

These workforce estimates are based on 134,168 Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted in 2014 with Americans aged 50 to 64 — those born from 1946 through 1964, the post-World War II years commonly used to define the baby-boom generation. Americans are classified as being in the workforce if they report being employed full time for an employer or self-employed, working part time, or not working but able to work and actively seeking employment.

The study also observes that much attention has been paid in recent years to pending changes in the work status of aging baby boomers, with some suggestions that boomers may work longer and postpone retirement. While the last boomer will reach age 65 in 2029, the early indications from the available evidence suggest that boomers are retiring “on time.” The percentage of 65- to 68-year-olds still in the workforce in 2014 is almost identical to what Gallup measured among the pre-boomers of this age range in 2010. Thus, the vanguard of the boomer generation is retiring at nearly the identical rate as were pre-boomers four years ago.

A recent Ashtabula Star Beacon editorial speaks to this very issue in Ashtabula County: ” Within 15 years, about a third of county residents will either be at or knocking on the door of retirement age. This year, that 60 and older age group makes up only about a quarter of the county population. But Ashtabula, and Ohio as a whole, are aging rapidly, according to projections from Scripps Gerontology Institute researchers at Miami University in Oxford. Not only are many baby boomers getting older, but younger generations are having fewer children. The number of preschoolers (4-year-olds) in Ohio is expected to drop by 16,000 in 2030. It isn’t simply a reduction in birth rates, it’s also a migration of the working/parental-age group out of the county and state. In Ashtabula County, the 20-to-49-year-old population is expected to drop by 10 percent in the next 15 years.” Source: Star Beacon, January 27, 2015.

So what needs to be done about these issues? The Growth Partnership’s new action plan identifies strategies to strengthen workforce, talent and education in the future.

Strategic Thrust: Strengthen Workforce, Talent, and Educational Advancement by:

  1. Assisting existing employers to upgrade and expand their workforces in the short term on an individual and group basis (for one, replicate the Industrial Maintenance Training Program in other training need areas).
  2. Assisting existing employers to retain and attract the management, technical, and creative talent they need to grow and expand locally.
  3. Assisting local employers to develop the workforce and jobs of the future through labor market analysis, employment forecasting, and strategic investment.
  4. Assisting local public and private schools and Kent State University, Ashtabula to increase educational attainment in the county and retain this educated population in Ashtabula County. • Assisting employees of local companies and residents to increase their ability to create personal wealth (through the Financial Fitness Program with Wells Fargo and possibly other initiatives.)

Key performance metrics:

  1. Success in developing new tools (e.g. website, data and information, training resources, talent marketing tools) needed to support workforce and talent development and educational advancement.
  2. Number of companies assisted with workforce and talent issues.
  3. Jobs upgraded and created as a result of company assistance efforts.
  4. Dollar investment in workers by companies and public workforce programs.
  5. Business expansions enabled by meeting workforce and talent needs.
  6. Educational advancement metrics to be set with educational partners.
  7. Number of employees and residents trained in financial fitness.

Key Partners:

Employer human resource managers, A-Tech, KSU, Ashtabula, LEADERship Ashtabula County, Young Professionals of Ashtabula County, MAGNET, JobsOhio, Business Resource Network (BRN), Workforce Investment Board 19, public and private schools in Ashtabula County, JobsOhio, Educational Service Center for Ashtabula County, Civic Development Corporation, Morrison Foundation, and other resources.


2 thoughts on “A Strategy for Addressing Workforce and Talent in Ashtabula County

  1. Hi Bill, Thank you for the comment. While most people need to work for income, work should also be meaningful to all stakeholders touched by their work, including the worker himself.


  2. Thanks for the post. One of the implicit problems with the older workforce is the reticence of employers to advance, or hire older workers. Many retire just because they are fed up and feel their contributions are not fully recognized. Where is this county?


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