Regional business leaders learn workforce strategies

By Alexandra Newman - [email protected]

Speakers and guests participate in Winning the Workforce War regional summit at the Fort Piqua Plaza on Thursday.

Mike Ullery | Piqua Daily Call

PIQUA — Pathways. A word that means, a route, a way of achieving a specified result; a course of action.

For business, education, and government leaders from Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Darke, Mercer, Miami and Shelby counties, creating pathways means success for their business now and a future generation.

Participants in Winning the Workforce War regional summit Thursday, at the Fort Piqua Plaza Banquet Center, heard from communities and organizations on how they are working with employers to win the regional and national war for talent.

Sponsored by the West Central Ohio Development Coalition, with some help from the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, participants sat through presentations on what’s working for communities, businesses and schools locally, learned about resources to help grow talent early, and apprenticeship programs.

“If we create pathway opportunities for students to engage … we create a dialog that’s successful in the future,” Scott McLemore, from Honda North America, said.

A main focus of the discussions Thursday focused on how to get students in high school, and even middle school, interested in their future career path and how to start them learning about that as soon as possible.

“Schools need to develop curriculum that put the two things together, work and education,” Peter Falk from Crown Equipment said. “We also need to open the eyes of mom and dad and educate them on what the employers are looking for.”

A morning presentation from Ohio Means Jobs shared how their website is helping develop profiles for students in the classrooms to do just that. is a hub for not only people to search jobs from job boards all over the internet, but a place for students to log on, create resumes, take career compatibility quizzes, and learn what future job is best for them.

The website offers video practicing for interviews, practice ACT and SAT tests, financial planning tools, and college suggestions based on career interests.

The presenters stressed that job education should start literally as early as kindergarten, by teaching them what work is, having different professionals come speak to them, and making them aware of career possibilities. Education needs to meet the market, they said, kids need to take field trips to places of business and get to try things hands on.

Later on in the seminar, Sharon Maurice, director of Workforce Partnership of Shelby County presented on how it’s important to align the workforce and education systems to respond to the skills needs of business and industry.

Skills based career exploration is important – having an actual person who does that teach them, not just the teacher, the presenters from the county initiatives workshop stressed.

If schools and industry work together to build workforce training and 21st century skills development programs, they can better prepare students and employees for current and future local jobs, Maurice said.

A lot of discussion was had on internships, apprenticeships programs and co-op opportunities as a way for schools and industry to do just that.

Emerson Climate Technologies in Sidney has a co-op program which pulls engineering students from all over the country. They rotate semesters, one at school and one working at Emerson, and when they’re set to graduate, they have the opportunity to be hired, Gwen Wilker, from Emerson, said.

Although it’s not just engineers these companies, like Emerson, need. They need mechanics, lineman, inspectors, human resource and office staff. Several of the presenters talked about how the skilled workforce is aging and in the next 10 years they’re going to need a whole new set of hands working in their businesses.

These business are trying to pull from career centers like Upper Valley CC, and establish programs where students can jump right in after high school and be trained a little more, while they’re paid to go to school.

Chad Bridgman, internship coordinator at Sinclair Community College, presented on how Sinclair partners with area business and organizations to provide internship work and learning opportunities for students. This program, and similar are a way to make a long term investment in the student’s success and a way for business to retain local talent.

Participants in the summit heard several times during the day that working life and your career isn’t a ladder like once thought. You don’t just want to keep climbing up in the same direction and field, it needs to be more of a lattice or tree where you keep climbing up, but you have several different ways of getting there.

“There’s so much more than just an assembly line. All these speakers message is the same, it’s all about creating opportunity, creating pathways,” Angie Brunswick from ORBIS Corp., said.

Speakers and guests participate in Winning the Workforce War regional summit at the Fort Piqua Plaza on Thursday. and guests participate in Winning the Workforce War regional summit at the Fort Piqua Plaza on Thursday.Mike Ullery | Piqua Daily Call

By Alexandra Newman

[email protected]

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825.

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825.

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