The need to prepare our students for an ever-changing workforce is real and must augment the work opportunities available in our community.

The demand for skilled labor in the central Ohio area is rapidly growing.

Historically, we have defined skilled labor as employment in fields such as heating-and-air technicians, electricians, construction laborers, plumbers and welders. This has remained constant and these careers continue to be in demand. According to the OhioMeansJobs December 2019 Central Ohio Region Report, there are 1,192 maintenance/repair openings, 941 construction laborer openings and 592 openings for electricians.

As we enter 2020, the need for skilled labor has not changed. What has changed is the definition and broad scope of what a skilled workforce looks like. With the influx of technology, that permeates every career field and the growth in the central Ohio region's healthcare infrastructure, skilled jobs now come in many shapes and sizes. Software developers, electro-mechanical technicians and billing-and-coding specialists are all rapidly growing skilled careers in central Ohio.

The South-Western City School District is aware of these needs and has aligned its programming to match industry needs. We have added programs in electrical trades, software development, engineering and robotics and medical-data management over the past few years to align with workforce needs.

The district is fortunate that our partners recognize what an educated workforce means for the vitality of a community and offers programming that promotes traditional higher education and skilled labor/trades. For example, the Grove City Higher Education Investment Program offers residents a unique scholarship opportunity that provides funding to help offset the cost of higher education.

The research is clear that most jobs in our country will require some post-secondary education or training and today's workers will change jobs multiple times throughout their careers. It will be a rarity for an individual to remain in one job during their lifetime. The city's effort to enhance the workforce development skills is exciting as people transition to jobs and careers that require new skills to keep up with constantly emerging technology.

Most recently, the city passed a resolution to incorporate skilled labor into the Higher Education Investment Program, recognizing that skilled-labor training provides economic stability for the community.

We are proud to be part of a community with a strong vision for the future. We are educating students for the real world and together we want to provide multiple opportunities for success in this complex, constantly changing demand for work and skills in the 21st century.

Brad Faust is assistant superintendent of curriculum with the South-Western City School District.