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First Lady Jill Biden's Columbus visit highlights expected job growth

First Lady of the United States Jill Biden speaks to a crowd in Columbus City Hall
George Shillcock
First Lady Jill Biden spoke at Columbus City Hall about new workforce initiatives aimed at making Columbus a hub for new jobs amidst massive private sector investment.

First Lady of the United States Jill Biden applauded workforce development efforts made by local organizations to prepare central Ohio for new manufacturing and technical jobs expected to be created in the region.

Biden spoke Wednesday at Columbus City Hall alongside local leaders, a representative from Intel, union leaders and Columbus State Community College President David Harrison. She helped announce the community college's new certificate program for semiconductor technicians, which will launch this fall in partnership with Intel, and work by local unions to expand apprenticeship programs.

Biden said the groups expect to quadruple the number of students trained for technical jobs and over the next five years will prepare 10,000 people for construction trades.

"As a community college professor myself... I'm so excited to see how this work changes people's lives here in Columbus and in other hub regions," Biden said.

Columbus was recognized as a "workforce hub" with five other cities in May and Biden is touring the cities designated with this label to help highlight initiatives in their growing economies. The other cities include Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Phoenix and Augusta, Georgia.

Central Ohio has seen historic investment from Intel with the company's planned chip factory in New Albany and Honda designating the state as a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing.

Biden touted the potential of these jobs and other investments made by private companies and President Joe Biden's "Bidenomics" with the CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act. The $20 billion Intel facility just started pouring concrete at the site in New Albany and won't be complete until 2025.

Biden said jobs like those growing in central Ohio can help expand the middle class.

"A job is more than just a paycheck. It's a path, a way to build the lives we want. And everyone, everyone, every American deserves the chance to do just that," she said.

Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty thanked the first lady and the president for "putting Columbus on the map" and investing in education, technology and enhancing the skilled labor workforce.

"Ohio's third congressional district has been a hub of innovation and today's workforce hub launch naming Columbus as one of the key hubs solidifies what my constituents and I have always known," Beatty said.

Harrison spoke during a panel with Biden and discussed the collaboration Columbus State is working on with the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. The group is leading a statewide initiative with support from Intel called the Ohio Semiconductor Collaboration Network.

Harrison said the network is designed to build out a common curriculum that will be a statewide asset not just for Intel, but for the entire supply chain.

"The ecosystem of suppliers is going to be transformational to every community in the state. We are incredibly fortunate to have this kind of connection in Columbus and look forward to continuing to work with you and the administration to deliver the goods," Harrison said.

Jill Biden is scheduled to visit several other U.S. cities designated as workforce hubs by President Biden over the next few days in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.