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Working on Workforce Development

OTA Thoughts on the Value of Our Jobs and Opportunities

Finding employees with strong work ethics and basic soft skills seems to be a challenge for everyone these days. Even finding enough employees to operate is a problem. Over and over again, we hear about your struggles to not only staff fully, but to retain the talent you have in place.

The Ohio Travel Association is working on this issue on a number of different fronts, from protecting the J-1 Summer Work Travel program to working to make the default school start date after Labor Day. We conducted a needs assessment through a collaboration with the Ohio State University, and we are constantly providing you with the programming you and your staff need to keep up-to-date.

Instead of a piecemeal approach, OTA staff and board recognize the importance of looking at this issue from a talent management perspective.  How do we make sure our schools and colleges are developing the skills we need? How do we increase the number of qualified applications interested in our jobs? How do we make learning a lifelong process and create opportunities for you to invest in your employees through learning? Are we managing our employees to the best of our ability?  And, finally, how do we keep superstars in the industry?



One new and exciting approach we are engaged in is the Ohio Business Coalition for Education. This advisory board to the Ohio Department of Education and MBNA Research is a group of folks like us – trade and professional associations – all of whom represent members who depend on strong business, marketing, and finance skills.  We are at the table with those representing CPAs, human resources, grocery stores, insurance companies, retail merchants, hotels, banks, chambers, administrative professionals and more. Melinda Huntley, OTA Executive Director, serves as the chair for this new group.

Yesterday, the group met and learned more about some programs that could help you connect with your local schools – and their students. We are working with the Ohio Department of Education and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation to better connect existing programs with businesses and organizations, such as yours.

For example, the Career Readiness Seal is a new high school diploma distinction that works to acknowledge and build the soft skills we all need the most in our employees. Students work with three mentors to address the following 15 skills:

  1. Drug free
  2. Reliability
  3. Work ethic
  4. Punctuality
  5. Discipline
  6. Teamwork and collaboration
  7. Professionalism
  8. Learning agility
  9. Critical thinking and problem solving
  10. Leadership
  11. Creativity and innovation
  12. Oral and written communications
  13. Digital technology
  14. Global/intercultural fluency
  15. Career management

Businesses need an easy way to connect with schools if they want to serve as mentors. Businesses also need to be more aware of this program and consider the seal in their hiring decisions. Students need to recognize that achieving this seal could help their careers, particularly for those going straight into the workforce after high school.

But as we explore these options, we are also pushing out of the box a little bit.  What role can our summer and seasonal jobs play in students achieving this distinction? We already know that those students who have summer jobs do better academically and professionally, and if you look at the list above, aren’t those the skills students gain while working?  

And if we can strengthen the link between summer jobs and academic and career achievement, then a whole new conversation can occur. 

Within the next couple months, you will receive an email from Melinda Huntley asking about how you and your organization or business want to be involved.  Maybe you just want to speak in a classroom once a year. Maybe you want to provide comments on learning standards being developed. Maybe you want to sit on a school’s advisory board and help them prepare curriculum for the future.

The reality of this new world where jobs are plentiful and workers are not is that our industry needs to be partners in our local and state education communities. We have the jobs that can really make a difference for Ohioans.

Tell us your thoughts. What skills are the most important when you are hiring? What do you see lacking?     

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