NEWARK – Employers are helping educate students and educators are helping students find jobs as the collaboration between schools and business deepens in Licking County.
Still, few are satisfied that everything is being done to match students with future employers or careers.
Almost 300 business and education representatives from across the county came together Wednesday at Newark High School for the annual Workforce Summit: Licking County Connects, a half-day of dialogue and presentations seeking to improve the business-education relationship.
Bonnie Coe, president of Central Ohio Technical College, summed up the feelings expressed by many when she said: “You just don’t realize how special Licking County is. These institutions are continually collaborating. There is something special going on in Licking County. We have great collaboration in Licking County, but it could be so much better.”
Some employers have complained in recent years that job candidates often lack the soft skills of communication, promptness, self-motivation, work ethic and problem-solving.
Kurt Harden, president, chief operating officer and treasurer at MedBen, said: “The whole point of all this is we can do a better job of the job of making better citizens. We need skilled employees who can think, can work on teams, speak well, can show up on a regular basis, can disagree without hurting feelings, can lead and can follow.”
During one of the day’s workout sessions, Marcia Downes, managing director of The Works, said some students begin with a disadvantage stemming from their home lives.
“I see so many students come through middle school programs really clueless and not getting support at home for career choices because their parents are not employed,” Downes said.
Bill MacDonald, director/dean at Ohio State University-Newark, said the local campus has come a long way from its early years.
“There wasn’t a lot of thought about the regional needs of the workforce,” MacDonald said of the beginning years. “We didn’t think very strategically, but that’s changed. We’ve evolved to the point, business and industry leaders are on our boards.”
Bud Frasier, a sales manager at General Fasteners in Hebron, suggested educational institutions invite representatives from local companies to come to the school.
“Bring business leaders into the classroom and describe what they do,” Frasier said. “It could be anybody in business that has passion about it, and instill the passion in the kids.”
One effort to help provide students with real world business experience is the Licking County Educational Service Center’s Licking County Schools High School Mentorship program, which had an all-time high of 99 students last year.
The 30-year program matches high school juniors and seniors with a professional in their chosen field for a semester that combines class time, online assignments and on-site learning opportunities.
Georgia Banks, gifted coordinator with the Licking County Educational Service Center, said the organization spends the summer searching for mentors to pair with interested students.
“You find out in a hurry if this is really your career choice,” Banks said. “It’s designed around higher-achieving kids, but we see a need for the kids that have no vision to help them have a vision.”
Daryl Dickerson, product engineer for Boeing, said his involvement with the mentoring program has been rewarding.
“It’s a neat treat for me to see a student working with an engineer,” Dickerson said. “It’s cool to see the interaction between the student and the mentor. We get our people excited again about what they’re doing. If we don’t help the workforce of the future, we won’t have a workforce of the future.”
The event was sponsored by the Licking County Educational Service Center, OhioMeansJobs/Licking County, the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Development Innovation Center at Central Ohio Technical College.
Found in The Newark Advocate August 4, 2016