Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel touted the work being done at the Choffin Career & Technical Center to train young people for careers in the emerging oil and gas industry.
Mandel, a Republican, toured the school at 200 E. Wood St. on Friday, touting the center’s focus on training its students for skilled trades, particularly in the oil and gas industry.
Using a theme from his unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate race, Mandel said Friday that it’s “baloney” that “a whole generation” has been told “you need a four-year degree to be successful.”
Some people, he said, with the proper technical training can find good-paying, blue-collar jobs without a college degree.
“We have people with $100,000 in debt with a four-year liberal arts degree serving coffee at Starbucks,” said Mandel, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University.
Connie Hathorn, Youngstown’s superintendent of schools, said many students won’t go to college after leaving high school. The district’s goal for those students is to teach them a skill they can use to find employment once they graduate.
Patrick Prokop, a Choffin welding instructor, said he’s a “prime example” of someone who’s succeeded without a college degree.
“I like to say, ‘I live like a king,’” said Prokop, who was an ironworker before working at Choffin. “I just bought a $200,000 house in Boardman and paid cash for my two cars. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to live good.”
So what does Choffin have to do with the treasurer’s office?
“I want a strong balance sheet for the state of Ohio and in order to have solid finances in the state, we need jobs so more people are productive and contributing to the economy,” Mandel told The Vindicator after the Choffin tour. “As state treasurer, the state of Ohio’s finances will be strongest when we have as many people as possible working in manufacturing-type jobs.”
For the number of manufacturing jobs to grow, the skills taught at Choffin and other technical schools are vital, he said.
Mandel specifically pointed to oil and gas jobs, and that those positions should be filled by Ohioans and not “25-year-olds from Texas and Oklahoma who are being shipped here.”
The oil and gas industry provides a great opportunity to help generate revenue and jobs for the state, particularly the Mahoning Valley, he said.
Mandel also said he came to Youngstown to promote his office’s STAR Plus program that recently surpassed $1 billion in local government investments. The program, launched a year ago, invests money on behalf of school systems and local governments, and offers a yield that is four times more than the state’s traditional STAR Ohio program, he said.
With cuts to education and local government funding, schools and communities are “strapped for cash,” Mandel said.
“Now there’s a way to actually produce more money for local schools and cities through wise and secure investments in the state treasurer’s office,” he said.
The program is a “partial solution to replace some of that revenue,” Mandel said.
Mandel, who is running next year for re-election, said he is “not thinking about politics right now.”