ABLE Program: A Critical Cog in Northwest Ohio’s Economic Engine

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Terms such as “skills gap,” “workforce pipeline,” and “employability” may not sound like much, but they represent key factors that can make the difference between a stalling regional economy and a thriving one.

In Allen County, Ohio, the Lima City Schools Adult Basic and Literacy Education (ABLE) program has been actively partnering with groups such as the Allen Economic Development Group (AEDG) and the Lima Allen County Chamber of Commerce to help reshape the local workforce and keep the regional economic engine humming.


All About the Data 
When business owners are looking to build or expand, they increasingly rely on workforce data to help guide the process of choosing an ideal location. “Site selectors and current business and industry are focused on workforce data more than ever to make decisions on expansion,” said Eric Davis, the coordinator of Strategic Workforce Development at AEDG. “Having a strong workforce is not only paramount to job growth, but also to the retention of current business and industry.”


AEDG talks with local businesses and industries to monitor workforce needs in northwest Ohio. The data it gathers is shared not only with statewide economic development organizations such as Ohio Means Jobs, but also local groups such as the Lima ABLE program, which often work on a one-on-one, individual level. Using this information, ABLE can better inform and guide job-seekers toward careers with the most growth potential. “ABLE’s tie back into this process is critical,” said Davis, “especially their partnerships with Ohio Means Jobs-Allen County, our local career and technical centers, and community colleges.” 


Manufacturing and Other Jobs
Lima ABLE is currently involved in two programs that are making a positive impact on the local workforce. The Basic Manufacturing Pathways (MP) program is administered through Rhodes State College, and primarily attracts “low-skill” students who already have a high school diploma or GED. “Typically, the students are unemployed or have a history of unemployment, employment with temp agencies, or employment paying at, or slightly above minimum wage,” notes Doug Durliat, Director of the West Central Ohio Manufacturing Consortium. “They tend to lack workplace or soft skills.”


Lima ABLE was one of the founding partners of the MP Program, helping to develop its curriculum and providing classroom instruction to more than 500 students since 2005. Eighty-five percent of the students were unemployed upon entering the program, and as of January 2014, 53% have found work with 29 different northwest Ohio manufacturing companies, including Ford, Honda, Grob, and Steel Technologies. Thirty-one students have gone on to pursue some kind of post-secondary education. 


In addition to the MP program, Lima ABLE was the first organization to team up with the Northwest Ohio Literacy Council’s new job training program, “10 Jobs You Can Get in Lima Without a College Degree.” The 10 jobs were identified by the AEDG as open but unfilled, due to the difficulty in finding local workers with the right skillset. The 10-week training program was specifically tailored to help lower socioeconomic adults fill these and other similar in-demand jobs. In addition to the coursework, each student creates a professional e-mail address, develops a resume, learns how to search for jobs online, takes part in a mock interview, works as a co-instructor for one class, and makes a presentation at the end of the program.


Commitment to the ABLE mission
Through these and other partnerships, Lima ABLE continues to help bridge the gap between business leaders looking for trained workers and a workforce that needs additional training. While some ABLE students are comfortable applying for post-secondary education and re-entering the workforce independently, others have never filled out an online application. If they attended high school more than five years ago, their computer skills are likely outdated as well. Lima ABLE continues to help Ohio adults become more effective workers, parents, and citizens by teaching them about these and other types of basic skills, which are so essential in today’s competitive job market.