The economy of today and tomorrow is all about knowledge, and the primary path to knowledge is higher educational attainment. Not all employers need college-educated workers. I get it. At the same time, knowledge jobs drive economic growth, certainly not unskilled labor. Ashtabula County must take greater advantage of the resources of the Kent State University, Ashtabula campus, as well as other colleges and universities in the region.
According to recent studies by Cleveland State University and Team NEO, significant shifts continue to be seen in Northeast Ohio’s population and workforce with one of the biggest changes being the number of millennial workers and those with advanced degrees working in the region. This is good news. Unfortunately, this regional trend does not extend into Ashtabula County, where only 19% of the workforce has completed an associates, bachelors or graduate degree compared to 34% of Ohioans. Only 4% of the county’s workforce holds a graduate or professional degree compared to 10% of Ohioans.
A recent report by Cleveland State University’s Center for Population Dynamics, A Reason to Be – “Upskilling” of Cleveland’s Workforce, shows that Cleveland gained 56,000 advanced degrees between 2000 and 2015 and 20 percent of Cleveland’s workers aged 25 to 44 have an advanced degree. In 2000, only 10.5 percent of the regional workforce had advanced degrees and by 2015, that number was 17.1 percent—a percent point gain of 6.6 percent. This was the eighth highest percent point gain for the largest 40 metros in the nation, according to the report and a large number of these were younger workers.
While the Cleveland Metro area lost 3.1 percent of its overall population from 2005-2015, the number of people in their 20’s increased by 5.2 percent, according to research from Team NEO. The number of annual college completions in the Cleveland Metro area has also increased from 19,400 in 2004 to 24,400 in 2014. This is a 26 percent gain in the number of people graduating each year.
In 2000, two-thirds of workers did not have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to one-third that did, meaning that our economy was comprised of two non-college educated workers for every one college-educated worker. In comparison, today there is one college-educated worker for every 1.5 non-college educated worker in the region, according to the Cleveland State report. This shift shows some of the changes toward knowledge-based jobs in the region from previous skill-based positions.
Most of these new positions have been in the health care and education fields with the biggest decline seen in manufacturing. Despite the decline in manufacturing, the sector remains a vital part of our economy and is anticipated to see growth as manufacturer’s transition to advanced practices. Currently, manufacturing is a $43.6 billion industry representing 19.5 percent of our region’s economy today. By 2025, it is expected to grow to $53.3 billion and make up 22 percent of our economy, according to research from Team NEO.
Along with growth in manufacturing, many other sectors are expected to grow. For example, Health care is anticipated to add 42,000 jobs; finance and insurance 7,000 jobs; professional, scientific and technical fields 4,000 jobs; construction 4,000 jobs and information and media 2,000 jobs. Overall employment is projected to grow by 98,000 jobs or five percent within the next ten years.