CINCINNATI (TDB) -- When Bob Taft took office as governor, a big production was Executive Order 99-33T, which created the Ohio Workforce Policy Board, a business-dominated panel created to play a critical role in guiding the state's economy and encouraging a healthy job market. Taft's order set up a board with ''at least 41 members," all his appointees, "the majority of whom will be business leaders."
In short, the board was supposed to be an imporant body to spot what kind of jobs were out there in the global economy for Ohio workers, and chart how the state might focus its many assets to prepare people.
These days, the Republican governor's order looks like it wasn't worth the paper it was written on. When it met, the board was plagued with abseenteeism. Right now, it lists 25 members, with 10 from government agencies. There are only two appointees from the Cleveland-area and one of them heads the Urban League, a non-profit organization. In fact, the cream of Northeast Ohio's business community is completely missing --- not a banker or manufacturer or hospital executive in sight. On its Web site, the board displays its motto, "Striving for World-Class Excellence in Workforce" but that looks hollow, too. No meeting minutes have been published since last June.
A consultant brought in to study Taft's board reported in October that it was a mess. ''The state and local workforce boards are, in general, not viewed as effective by the economic development officials, and many of these officials no longer participate as board members,'' Thomas P. Miller and Associates, the consulting firm, said. "Recent attempts by the Ohio Workforce Policy Board to meet with local workforce board 'directors' has been somewhat difficult to convene because the local staffing structures vary widely and it isn't clear who should be invited. Further, local service providers express confusion about the local workforce board role and report they don't understand the rules of the system."
One recommendation the consultant said was important: Slash the board down from 41 members. It should be cut to 13, with 10 from business, plus an economic development expert and two others drawn from the Ohio Board of Regents and Ohio Department of Education. And, the report recommended, the members from government agencies should not have votes on policy.
Overall, the consultant said the board had failed to meet goals for timely and relevant data collection, interpretation and subsequent policy recommendations.
In other words, it was a flop during years that Ohio's economy was stressed out by global factors and manufacturing workers lost jobs by the hundreds of thousands. Taft's board should have helped steer the state through the storm, but the consultant found there was minimal effort to ''align regional workforce and economic development strategies." There is a lot of information about this backwater agency at www.ohioworkforce.org.