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Rising From Rust

How north central Ohio students really feel about regional jobs

A series of student surveys

  • 6 min to read
How north central Ohio students really feel about regional jobs

MANSFIELD – Richland County has jobs and some are lucrative, but perhaps the most important segment of the local population doesn’t believe it.

Richland Source recently surveyed 510 students – 216 in 12th grade and 294 in either fourth of fifth – to see how they perceive their hometowns.

Students overwhelmingly shared that they like their hometowns, but a majority of the high schoolers don’t intend to stay. The reasons vary -- and only some students elaborated

But everyone was asked to answer a series of questions about their hometowns, which offers further insight.

First, students listed the factors that matter to them when considering where they’ll live after graduating high school. About 93 percent of seniors included “finding a likable job” and 86 percent listed “finding a job that pays well.” About three-quarters of elementary students also marked these factors as important.

Then, students were asked specifically about their hometown. Questions included: “Do you think you will be able to find a job you like in your hometown?” and “Do you think you’ll be able to find a job that pays well in your hometown?”

While elementary students were optimistic about local job opportunities, soon-to-be high school graduates weren’t as convinced in their potential.



About 46 percent of high school students expressed a belief that they “probably” or “definitely” won’t be able to find a job they’d like in their hometown, while only 27 percent believe the opposite, that they “probably” or “definitely” will find a local, likable job.

The remainder answered “maybe” or “I don’t know.”


The younger students believe there are more likable opportunities in their hometowns.

About 40 percent of this group believe they’ll “definitely” or “probably” find a job they like locally. Only 24 percent don’t see potential, saying they “probably” or “definitely” won’t find a job they want in their hometown.



Seniors don’t believe they’ll find likable or good-paying jobs in their hometowns.

When asked if they believe their hometowns have good-paying jobs, about 42 percent said “definitely” or “probably” no.

Only 27 percent leaned the other way, saying they “probably” or “definitely” will be able to find a job that pays well. Others answered “maybe” or “I don’t know.”


In similar fashion, elementary school students echoed their previous answers about jobs.

While 40 percent believe they will “definitely” or “probably” find a likable job in their hometown, abour 47 percent believe they’ll find one that pays well.

About 13 percent responded “definitely no” or “probably no.” The rest expressed uncertainty with either “maybe” or “I don’t know.”


Richland County has jobs.

That doesn’t necessarily make them “likable” or “good-paying” in the eyes of local students, but job opportunities exist.

In mid-April, there were 1,178 available jobs in Mansfield listed on Ohio Means Jobs with 471 paying upwards of $50,000 and 71 paying upwards $100,000 on an annual basis.

Searches in other communities showed similar results on smaller scales. There were 73 jobs listed in Shelby with 28 paying upwards of $50,000 and four paying upwards of $100,000; 63 jobs in Ontario with 16 paying upwards of $50,000 and five paying upwards of $100,000; 18 jobs listed in Lexington with two paying more than $50,000 and none paying six-figures; and 8 jobs in Lucas with three paying more than $50,000 and none paying six-figures.

“The job market is very strong in Richland County,” said State Representative Mark Romanchuk. “We have everything from entry level to higher level with physician openings at our two local hospitals.”

He also spoke to the Richland Source in December 2017. At that time, Ohio Means Jobs listed 1,771 available jobs within a 20-mile radius of Mansfield. A breakdown of salaries showed 433 upper-middle income jobs paying $50,000 to $79,000, 99 high-income jobs paying $80,000 to $99,000 jobs and 81 six-figure jobs.

"I think there's a misconception that there is just no jobs," Romanchuk said in December. "There have been jobs since the recovery, which was around 2010. There have been a number of job openings going on since 2010, so there's jobs available – good-paying jobs."


Jobs are here, but industries with open positions might not be “likable” in the eyes of the future workforce.

According to information provided by the Richland Community Development Group, the manufacturing industry is still the largest employer in Richland County, providing an average of 9,909 jobs and paying $117,703,817 in total wages in the third quarter of 2017.

Other leading sectors in Richland County include trade, transportation and utilities with an average of 9,573 jobs and $77,115,124 in wages; education and healthcare with an average of 7,803 jobs and $80,631,156 in wages; leisure and entertainment with an average of 5,471 jobs and $35,452,399 in wages.

This is generally in line with what’s happening across the United States, based on the employment and total wage location quotients provided by Richland County Development Group.

Manufacturing, however, sticks out as an exception. The industry employs more than twice the people in Richland County relative to the United States. The total wage location quotient reflects this, too, meaning the employees at area manufacturers are likely being paid similar wages as others in the industry elsewhere.

The problem could be that manufacturing’s reputation needs rebuilt.

Steve Cummins of Mansfield Engineered Components knows well the reaction when he leads tours through his business. He is met with a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” from both adults and children.

“The stereotype of factories as dark, dirty places has been hard to break,” he said. “But walk into any modern manufacturer and you might be surprised.  Well-lit, organized and clean workspaces are now the norm, not the exception.”

He purposefully looks for opportunities to expose young people to manufacturing. Mansfield Engineered Components participates in the Regional Manufacturing Coalition's Manufacturing Day every October. More recently, the manufacturer had a dozen North Central State College students on site for a segment of their senior projects.

“In the manufacturing world, we're trying to make younger generations aware of opportunities that our area has that maybe they just hadn't been exposed to,” Cummins said. “Even though it was just a couple weeks, hopefully, this student program we participated in opened a few eyes to local opportunities.”

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But some other sectors offer less opportunity relative to the U.S. For example, professional and business services provided an average of 4,739 jobs and $35,452,399 in wages during the third quarter of 2017 in Richland County. The employment location quotient relative to the U.S. is 0.67, and the total wage quotient compared the U.S. is 0.41. All data above is from the third quarter of 2017.

Chart 1. Average weekly wages by county in Ohio, first quarter 2017

Average weekly wages by county in Ohio, first quarter 2017, via the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Richland County can’t compete with metropolitan areas when it comes to wages.

Though the area has some high paying jobs, Columbus and Cleveland predictably have many more.

The average weekly wage in Richland County in first quarter 2017 was $728, but in Cuyahoga County with Cleveland and Franklin County with Columbus, weekly wages top $1,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average weekly wage was $1,114 in Cuyahoga County and $1,106 in Franklin County.

More comparably, Wayne County with a population of 116,038 – just short of Richland County’s 120,589 – has an average weekly wage of $817.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Ohio 26th in regards to average weekly wage in first quarter 2017. When factoring in percent change in wages between 2016 and 2017, it ranked Ohio 25th.

The District of Columbia, New York and Massachusetts have the highest average weekly wages. The weekly wages are $1,885, $1,541 and $1,428, respectively.

Cost of living would likely affect how far each dollar goes, a statistic that would favor this region due to the low cost of living here. This impact will be considered later in this series of stories.


The results are in, but they are inconclusive.

Jobs exist in Richland County, and some pay over $100,000, but that doesn’t make them “likable” or “good-paying” to the future workforce.

This survey – like all surveys – has limitations. While it provides valuable insight, it doesn’t account for certain scenarios.

For example, it’s possible that a student doesn’t see job potential in their hometown but could picture themselves working elsewhere in Richland County.

Or perhaps, it’s how students define a “likable job” or “good-paying job” that affects the results one way or another. Individual career interests and goals likely impact the answers, but since no portion of the survey addresses future career interest, it’s unclear if perception does or doesn’t match reality regarding jobs and pay.


The Richland Source survey included 510 students with 216 in 12th grade and 294 in either fourth and fifth grades. With advice primarily from Shelby Superintendent Tim Tarvin, staff reporters developed survey questions and determined what age groups would best be able to respond.

The intention was to get opinions from high school students, who are immediately thinking about what they’ll do and where they’ll live post-graduation, and elementary school students, who don’t likely have fully formed opinions of their hometowns yet.

Schools participating were Mansfield Senior High School, Mansfield’s Malabar Elementary and Spanish Immersion Schools; Shelby High School and Shelby’s Dowds Elementary School; Ontario High School and Ontario’s Stingel Elementary School; Madison Comprehensive High School; Lucas High School and Elementary School; Lexington Junior High School; Crestview High School and Elementary School; Crestline High School and Galion High School.

Others were invited, but did not participate. These schools include Plymouth High School and Plymouth-Shiloh Elementary School; Mansfield’s Woodland Elementary School, Prospect Elementary School, John Sherman Elementary and Springmill STEM Elementary; Shelby’s Auburn Elementary; Madison’s Eastview, South and Mifflin Elementary Schools; Lexington High School; Crestline Elementary School and Galion Primary School.

Reasons for lack of participation vary. For example, Mansfield City Schools superintendent Brian Garverick chose to send the surveys to two of the district’s multiple elementary schools. Other superintendents expressed concern about affecting instructional time, a situation Lucas High School approached by asking students to answer the surveys from home.

Read more about how students feel about their hometowns here. And follow Rising from Rust for the next articles in this series.

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

Staff Reporter

Proud Pennsylvania native. Joined the staff in April 2017. Formerly Tracy Geibel.