PIQUA — Chancellor John Carey of the Ohio Department of Education visited Edison State Community College on Monday, touring the campus and participating in a forum during lunch.
Carey was visiting the campus to look at student successes and the role of workforce partnerships as well as to visit Edison’s newest president. Dr. Doreen Larson is the fifth president of Edison, and she began her position at Edison on July 1. Larson is also the first female president of the college.
“Our theme, as we hosted the chancellor today, and probably the theme that runs through Edison State College, is pathways and partnerships,” Larson said at the beginning of the forum. “We start, when our students come on to campus, with them designing a career pathway for themselves.
“And then we facilitate that pathway for our students through our partnerships,” Larson went on. “Whether it’s a partnership with K-12, with Upper Valley Career Center, with our manufacturers, with our businesses, that is what we utilize – our facilities, our staff, our resources — as a hub in the community to provide students the best career pathways they can via these partnerships.”
Superintendent Rick Hanes of Piqua City Schools spoke next, talking about the “unique position” that Piqua City Schools are in with having such close access to Edison. Piqua City Schools’ partnership with Edison begins in eighth grade, as Hanes explained that eighth graders spend an entire day at Edison “looking at what happens at college.”
“We have a lot of first-generation potential college students at Piqua High School,” Hanes said. He explained that Piqua High School offers a College 101 class that covers a multitude of topics all relating to college, such as the application process and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Students at Piqua High School also receive college credit for their physical education courses, and the school recently switched from post-secondary to college credit plus courses, according to Hanes.
“We’re blessed with a wonderful partnership,” Hanes said. “Our students benefit tremendously, our community benefits tremendously.”
Assistant Superintendent Laura Bemus of Greenville City Schools also spoke about their connection with Edison’s Greenville campus. An advanced manufacturing lab was recently brought into the mix with their partnership.
“Our students are being very successful with that blended learning,” Bemus said.
“We’re very excited about our new expanded partnership with them,” said Scot McLemore, Technical Workforce Development Manager of Honda North America, Inc., who spoke after Bemus.
McLemore commended Edison for providing them with “talented students,” explaining the need that they are seeing for skilled workers such as technicians and industrial controllers.
“I want to thank the chancellor and his team for helping us facilitate … finding that middle skill talent,” McLemore said.
“Everyone knows that faculty do their job in the classroom,” Dr. Paul Heintz, chair of the faculty senate, said after Larson thanked the faculty’s commitment to their jobs. “That’s simple. But what’s more important than that is really all of these relationships that we’ve been talking about.”
Of all of the different partnerships, Heintz said that the relationship with K-12 personnel was important in creating good students.
“Because K-12 personnel get students ready, they inspire them to learn, so then when we have students in the classroom, we have students that want to learn,” Heintz said.
Heintz went on to say that everyone in attendance, from school administrators to business leaders in the community, had a role to play in helping students succeed and become good employees.
“I hate to be cliché about the whole ‘it takes a village,’ but we are the village,” Heintz said. “It’s just not one of us. It’s all of us.”
Carey began his speech at the forum by mentioning that “one of the great things about higher education” is that it is a bipartisan issue. Carey also explained that his visit to Edison was a learning experience for him as well.
“I learned things today; for example, about the career plan that every student at Edison State has to complete when they enroll,” Carey said. “That’s something that we’re going to take back and think about when we go to Columbus about our policies.”
Carey also remarked on ways for providers of higher education to address the ongoing opiate epidemic.
“We talked to your athletic director and Student Life,” Carey said. “As you know, we have … a drug problem throughout our whole state. It’s not just Ohio, but it’s especially severe (here).” Carey stated that everyone probably knows someone in their life who is affected by drug addiction.
“One of the governor’s passions is getting college students, particularly athletes … talking to K-12 students about the harm of drug abuse,” Carey said.
Carey later mentioned that his department has a goal of having 60 percent of the population have some kind of credential, whether a degree or certification, by the year 2025.
“It’s not always that easy to get people to buy into aligning with workforce,” Carey said. “It all fits into education.”
Carey called on J.C. Wallace, president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, after his speech, who commented on the chamber’s role with the workforce and the need for skilled workers.
“We’ve kind of moved away from the economic development end, as most economic developers have, because we have so many companies that are struggling hiring and filling the positions they have now,” Wallace said. “We’re kind of going through a renaissance in Troy in the fact that all of our major employers … are all hiring.”
The goal that Wallace stated they are working on is recruiting people, getting people who are skilled technicians in those areas, and getting residents to stay in the area.
“We need people of all skill levels,” Wallace said. “The workforce issue is really alive.”
“We learn something new every day,” Carey said. “There’s always something we know we can do better … Higher education is always evolving.”
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall