Jul 12, 2023 - Education

First lady touts Columbus as "Workforce Hub"

First Lady Jill Biden speaks in front of microphones with raised hands.

Jill Biden is seen at an Ohio campaign stop in 2020. The first lady visited Columbus yesterday to promote the White House's "Workforce Hub" initiative. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Tech giants like Intel and Amazon have made headlines for announcing major jobs projects in Central Ohio.

  • Now comes the work of training local residents to help fill those positions.

Driving the news: First lady Jill Biden visited Columbus yesterday to promote the city as a "Workforce Hub" where, the administration says, it is partnering with local leaders to support tech manufacturing.

Why it matters: Business leaders have credited our skilled workforce as a reason they chose to locate and expand here.

  • Collaborative investments into job training programs by governments, labor unions, schools and employers, like the Workforce Hub initiative, seek to build on that promise.

What's happening: Columbus State Community College (CSCC) plans to greatly increase the number of students trained for engineering technology jobs over the next five years.

  • The college is launching a new semiconductor technician certificate program this fall with curriculum help from Intel.

The intrigue: Community college enrollment in Ohio is rebounding as students embrace an affordable alternative to four-year degree programs.

  • There is a major opportunity in particular for Columbus City School graduates, who receive free CSCC tuition through the Columbus Promise program.
  • Community colleges are "one of the best-kept secrets in America," said Biden, who still teaches at Northern Virginia Community College.

Meanwhile, a handful of local labor unions will expand their training facilities and registered apprenticeship programs in the construction trades.

What they're saying: The first lady credits "Bidenomics" for helping middle-class families, a term embraced by the White House amid the president's re-election effort.

  • She and other speakers at Wednesday's event touted passage of legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the CHIPS Act, which they say support local workforce development efforts.

Flashback: That claim bore out with the Intel project timeline. After announcing the Licking County factory in January 2022, CEO Pat Gelsinger threatened to delay construction unless Congress passed the CHIPS Act with spending toward domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

  • President Biden signed the bill into law in August, and a month later appeared with Gelsinger at the groundbreaking event.

The bottom line: Columbus' reputation as a Midwest tech and innovation hub was foreshadowed years ago — it has since been cemented by a string of major business developments.

  • Jobs programs like the ones announced yesterday aim to strengthen those projects and potentially spur new ones.
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