Geographical disparities and a growing skills gap are high on the list of chief executives' concerns.

Workforce issues have been identified as a top challenge by the region’s CEOs in recent years, according to the Central Ohio CEO Survey conducted by Capital University for Columbus CEO. Here’s what three past CEO of the Year winners had to say about the topic.

“Our greatest challenge related to workforce in our community is the fact that employment rates for underserved communities are so much lower than citywide averages. As Columbus’ population continues to grow over the next decade, our local economy will be strained if we fail to fully engage all populations in our workforce. Corporations should work closely with and support community-based, direct-service organizations to ensure their workforce needs are aligning with opportunities and challenges in underserved areas. Looking at workforce development through the lens of someone living in an underserved community has the potential to transform how we approach this very important work moving forward.”
—Rebecca Asmo, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus

“Our greatest workforce challenge is the skills gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields. Around 240,000 Ohioans are currently unemployed and more than 165,000 jobs are open in our state. Many of these jobs are in STEM and here in Central Ohio. This problem could worsen as the population of Central Ohio grows to an expected 3 million by 2050. These numbers tell a compelling story: We have an existing skills gap and must work together to build the STEM pipeline for our future success. COSI is on the front lines, but we cannot solve this problem alone. As COSI delivers on a new strategic vision and mission, we look forward to working with the community to address this challenge.”
—Frederic Bertley, CEO, COSI

“I feel the greatest workforce challenge is the lack of skilled trade workers in the Columbus metropolitan area. As the region continues to expand, construction projects are plentiful and backlogs for construction companies continue to grow. I believe an overemphasis on the importance of a college education and how that can help and or hurt you (especially with student debt) in society adds to the deficiency in skilled labor. The technical schools in the Central Ohio region are at capacity and are in need of expansion and further funding. Lack of skilled labor increases costs to build projects and further affects the affordable housing issue we have in the metropolitan area as well.”
—Scott McComb, Chairman & CEO, Heartland Bank

Our CEO of the Year Awards for 2019 will be announced in the December issue.

Katy Smith is editor of Columbus CEO.