Economic data shows Ohio lagging behind the national economy in employment.; the state's 5.9 percent unemployment rate is a half-point higher than the national rate. Since 1994, only Oregon's unemployment rate has risen faster. Ohio lost 52,000 jobs in 2004, and many workers are unsure of their future.
Columbus hasn't fared as poorly as those cities that rely heavily on manufacturing. However, the city's employers weren't exactly filling up the Help Wanted pages last year. Only 100 new jobs were added to a local economy with more than 880,000 workers.
The lagging economy means that it is no longer enough to have the right degree or work experience to land a great job or earn a promotion. A new study by the University of Phoenix reveals that employees who want to advance in their careers also must be team players with excellent communication and problem-solving skills.
The university recently polled 330 employers in health care, education, technology and other high-growth sectors identified by the U.S. Department of Labor around the Midwest and across the nation. In their responses, executives stated the most important skills to succeed in today's workplace are communication (96 percent), followed by learning aptitude/desire to grow (95 percent), collaboration and teamwork (93 percent) and creative problem-solving (92 percent).
The data show there is a real concern among employers about finding qualified employees. Seventy-four percent of employees surveyed expect continued growth for jobs in their respective industries, but 65 percent also cited a shortage of skilled candidates to fill these anticipated positions.
In a highly skilled economy such as the one in Columbus, education is heavily valued by employers. And, earning a degree can be the one factor that positions you above the rest of the candidates for a particular job or promotion. In fact, more than half of employers surveyed say they favor continuous improvement and updating of skills through education and training.
If you're an employee who has been thinking about returning to school, make sure that the curriculum is current and the style of learning is relevant. Look for universities where classes are taught by instructors who are all experts currently working in their fields of expertise. That allows them to illustrate how theory is applied outside of the classroom -- a valuable asset for any student.
If you're an employer, consider the benefits of ongoing education for your current and prospective employees. Increasingly, employers are realizing those benefits.
According to the survey, nearly 57 percent of the respondents offer tuition reimbursement to employees seeking to enhance their skills. It's also an effective way to retain quality employees, another major concern among employers in the study.
With colleges and universities focusing more on practical application of theory, education can improve everyone's communication and teamwork skills. In Columbus, those skills are no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with over 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.