We have made great progress growing our local economy in recent years. As market forces stabilize, jobs are coming back to our state at a record pace. We are seeing businesses relocate from across the world right here to Northwest Ohio, and a new spirit of entrepreneurial innovation is flourishing here in our communities.
As we continue to expand economic opportunities, we face a new set of challenges. Not too long ago, unemployment rates neared double digit percentages and people struggled to find work in a tough economic environment. I supported reforms that cut cumbersome red tape and created a pro-growth tax policy. As those changes took effect, we started to see how prudent policy decisions could foster increased development in industries like manufacturing and healthcare.
But we are now confronted with a new problem: businesses simply cannot find the employees they need to grow their businesses. As I travel through the district, I hear the same complaints from employers. They could hire dozens of new workers, paying them well above average wages, but they struggle to bring qualified applicants in for interviews.
Our area lacks the skilled workforce needed to fill these new opportunities. In the same way that we used prudent policy to help our economy recover, we can also strategically pursue creative ideas to bolster workforce development. Specifically, I believe we can build stronger relationships between our education system and our economy, creating a pipeline of skilled, young talent right here at home. In order to do that, we must identify and remove barriers that prevent our students from pursuing promising career opportunities. We must challenge stigmas and assumptions around programs like career technical education and community colleges, and we must embrace new ways of thinking that do not settle for the status quo in education.
Over the next few weeks, I will share some of the ideas I have to rethink the way we educate our students. Some of them may require policy changes, but many primarily focus on a community-based approach, especially how we can provide children the tools they need to grow and succeed. I intend to use these as conversation starters in the much larger discussion we are having on education and career development. Together, we can pave the way to a brighter future, full of new possibilities.