PIQUA — The West Central Ohio Manufacturing Partnership held its regional education summit on Tuesday in Edison State Community College’s Robinson Theater.
Around 50 principals and superintendents from 10 counties were in attendance for the summit.
Participants heard presentations from two main speakers, Aaron Moran, superintendent at Versailles Exempted Village Schools, and Jason Hemmelgarn, principal at Coldwater High School.
Moran presented the topic of “how to engage local business as a comprehensive secondary school district.”
Moran began by stating 50 to 60 percent of Versailles graduates each year go on to complete a program from a four-year institution, though not necessarily in four years. He then presented questions regarding what the other 40 to 50 percent of graduates do after high school, and also examined whether college graduates end up in a career using their degree and/or if they go on to provide a positive return-on-investment.
Moran stated the school district should serve as a “pipeline” into the community workforce, just as much as it is a pipeline for students into college.
“We asked business leaders in various sectors of our community to come together to find out their needs and create a plan called, ‘Pathways to Careers,’” Moran said.
“Pathways to Careers” has been executed in several ways within the district, including through college, career, and military night events, manufacturing day, junior and senior interviews, sophomore and junior career presentations, and student and parent awareness meetings.
“It’s almost like recruiting for athletics,” Moran said. “If you’re not making connections with those kids, they’re not going to know about your business. We’ve got to find ways to create those relationships inside the classroom.”
Hemmelgarn’s presentation focused on “how to create high school internship pathways from a comprehensive secondary school to business within the district.”
He shared stories about participation from several local businesses, including Nidec Minster, Pax Machine Works, Taylor Communications, and Honda of America.
When it comes to providing internship pathways for students and local businesses, Hemmelgarn said Coldwater High School’s philosophy involves being open to discuss anything, the willingness to accommodate as much as possible, the willingness to customize to the needs of everyone, and the idea that “we will always be driven by what is best for our students while still working in collaboration with the companies.”
Hemmelgarn said the purpose of providing this type of partnership with businesses is to foster collaboration and a good working relationship with companies, to expose students to the best option for them, and to try to optimize the needs of all parties involved. In a best case scenario, pathways to internships will benefit students, businesses, and the community.
Attendees were also given the opportunity to split into small groups on two different occasions during the event to discuss among themselves a variety of topics and questions provided by moderators. After each break out session, the entire group reconvened to share answers and ideas.
Questions included, “Why is it important to engage in WCOMP (West Central Ohio Manufacturing Partnership)?”
One group answered by stating it’s critical for the local economy, as well as entire communities, to make sure there is a strong workforce.
This group also touched on the idea that the west central Ohio area has “unique needs” and may benefit greatly from increased partnership with local manufacturing entities given the strong presence of the manufacturing industry within the region.
Groups were also asked to present some challenges or barriers that exist when engaging business.
Answers included the issue of location and transportation given that many students interested in participating in workforce partnership programs may not have a driver’s license or a way to get to a business location, along with the possible issue of parents not being informed or educated on the opportunities available for students.
One breakout group also mentioned that due to some of the requirements, it’s hard to provide access for all students to some of these career opportunities.
This group added that, in some cases, if a student has not completed certain core classes, they may not be eligible to go to a career center or to participate in some of the workforce programs offered.
All answers from each break out group were recorded and collected by representatives of WCOMP and will be compiled together to use as a reference guide for development and growth within WCOMP and the counties it serves.
The West Central Ohio Manufacturing Partnership (WCOMP), which was established last year, is a manufacturing-led “industry sector partnership” created to solve the common workforce training, retention, and recruitment challenges of its participating member manufacturers.
WCOMP’s founding members come from nine manufacturing companies, including Crown Equipment Corp., French Oil Mill Machinery Co., Honda’s Anna Engine Plant, Midmark, Nidec Minster Corp., PPG, Procter & Gamble, Staub Manufacturing Solutions, and Voisard Tool LLC.
The counties served my the partnership includes Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Darke, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Shelby, and Van Wert.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.