We Care About Connections

Our Mission

To collaborate with education, business and community to build partnerships that create relevant career pathways for students and link them with resources and opportunities to succeed.

Our Vision

To inspire and improve Pickaway County students’ college and career readiness which will improve their quality of life and ultimately improve the economic stability of the area.

Our History

As part of the fastest growing metropolitan region in the Midwest, Pickaway County is in the midst of significant change. The Columbus Region is experiencing historic economic growth with nearly 150,000 new jobs created in the last five years. Locally, the expansion of existing employers and the attraction of new companies are providing local residents with a myriad of employment opportunities. This all bodes well for the economic vitality of our community, but low unemployment rates and a tightening labor market can prove to be challenging for local employers. We often hear that employers have difficulty finding people to fill openings, and new hires often come lacking basic soft skills.

In response to this, the local school districts in Pickaway County have invested significant resources over the last several years in developing new career readiness initiatives intended to prepare and align students with local employment opportunities. Entrepreneurial training, internships, 21st century skills curriculum and a variety of other tools are now being utilized to equip graduates for the workplace.

In a collaborative effort to align Pickaway County employers with our local education and workforce training resources, we began a series of Workforce Connection meetings.
We brought together local educators and employers, to learn about each other and begin relationship building, and as a result discovered many resources and identified common challenges, and began work on solutions. Originally intended to allow educators and employers the opportunity to connect with each other, the Workforce Connections meetings highlighted real challenges our schools and local employers face in a time of great change and growth for our community. More importantly, we also learned that there is great energy and openness to working together in new ways.

Much work has been done to harness this energy since we first met.  Multiple focus groups were held and a large group of collaborators met in a strategic STEM Community Roadmapping series to vision how a community can holistically engage schools and employers in relevant problem-solving opportunities that provide purpose and life-long learning in our community. All of this work was done with the intent of identifying new ways to bridge the readiness and awareness gap between students and the workplace.

Pickaway WORKS – World of Real Knowledge and Skills – was developed through this process and was rolled out to the community at our November 2017 Workforce Connections meeting. The vision of Pickaway WORKS is…to engage and develop all stakeholders in uniting education and workforce to positively transform and grow our vibrant community. Our program initiatives were identified through the strategic planning process and we began implementation in early 2018.  We recently held the latest in our series of our Workforce Connections meetings, with over 90 business leaders and educators in attendance, and were able to share and celebrate our successes to date and highlight examples of real partnerships in action between local business and schools.

In addition to their partnership with WORKS, all four Pickaway County school districts have demonstrated a long-time commitment to college and career readiness for all students through their support and collaboration with Pickaway HELPS, a traditional college access program founded in 2007.

With a renewed focus on engaging business partners, the WORKS and HELPS programs have formally merged under the Pickaway WORKS brand and have become one united effort to better prepare our students for the demands of the modern workplace and ultimately, for future success. WORKS is funded by financial support from all four school districts, as well as the Pickaway County Board of Commissioners, along with grant funding from the Pickaway County Community Foundation and other community grants.

Through our program initiatives, we are building partnerships that create relevant career pathways and provide local career opportunities for students, meet workforce demands of local employers and strengthen the economic stability of our community. We are focused on reconnecting education with business and community, to better engage with each other and support a more authentic learning experience for students.

Read our Pickaway WORKS Business Advisory Council Plan for more information.

Or check out our Pickaway County ESC and Pickaway WORKS Business Advisory Council Joint Statement.

Our Advisory Board Members

Pickaway WORKS is overseen by a 20-member advisory board and is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, overseen by executive director, Christy Mills. Following are the Pickaway WORKS advisory board members:

  • Christy Mills, Pickaway WORKS, Executive Director 
  • Ty Ankrom, Pickaway Co ESC Superintendent
  • Christine Boucher, Eastland-Fairfield Business Development
  • Lisa Heins, Circleville City Schools, Curriculum Director
  • Hank Kelly, Ohio Christian University, Provost
  • Jeremy Davitz, Production Plus – business owner
  • Eric Fehr, Ohio Christian University, Career Services Director
  • Jeffrey Robb, Hiram College, student representative
  • Matt Arnott, Crane Worldwide Logistics
  • Sally Galecki, Ohio Health Berger
  • Sam Braun, LEHS student ambassador
  • Beth Keplar, Teays Valley Schools, Director of Education and Learning
  • Stacey Sark, P3- Economic Development Specialist
  • Ryan Scribner, Pickaway County Economic Development Director
  • Joy Ewing, Pickaway Job & Family Services Director
  • Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension, STEM/Community Development
  • Jason Vesey, Pickaway Ross Secondary Principal
  • Jay Wippel, Pickaway County Commissioner
  • Michael Linton, Accurate Heating & Cooling Business Owner
  • Sandy Sethna, community member
  • Lillianna Stafford, CHS Student Ambassador

Our Team

Christy Mills

Christy has been working in Pickaway County schools for over 20 years, helping students maximize their potential and encouraging them to reach their goals. She has served as Executive Director of Pickaway WORKS since 2007. Christy and her husband are lifelong residents of this community and raised their now grown children here. She maintains her passion for the educational success of our young people and is dedicated to collaborating with local education and business partners to provide career building experiences and opportunities for our students. Christy earned her Bachelor of Science in Business from Ohio State University, is proud to call Pickaway County home, and is especially proud of her one amazing grandchild:)

Joanna Shipe
Joanna Shipe

Joanna has called Pickaway County home for over 20 years. As a first-generation college student and graduate, she has a passion for helping students and families navigate the world of work in all capacities. Her favorite thing about working with students is watching their confidence and excitement for their future grow as they realize their strengths and potential! Having worked with Pickaway WORKS as an advisor during its earlier days, she is excited to be back with the program working alongside businesses and educators to create opportunities for the students of this county. Joanna has diverse experience within the various levels of education in Pickaway County through her position as an Academic Advisor with the Adult and Graduate Studies program at Ohio Christian University, as well as a school counselor with New Hope Christian Academy and Logan Elm High School. Joanna earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Ohio Christian University, has a Master of Education from the University of Dayton, and is a Licensed Professional School Counselor. Joanna lives in Pickaway County with her husband and 2 wild and fun boys.

Emily Smith
Emily Smith

Emily grew up in Belmont Ohio, a small rural community in southeastern Ohio very similar to Pickaway County. She has a rich background in serving students and helping them reach their goals, beginning with her work at Central Ohio Technical College in Admissions and Academic Advising, and then at Muskingum University in Student Life & Admissions, as well as Vice President of Academic Affairs for over five years. She worked as a substitute teacher in Pickaway County for two years before joining Pickaway WORKS as the College & Career Advisor for Westfall Schools in 2018. Emily especially loves working with high school seniors and helping them with their plans after graduation. Emily earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology from Muskingum University and her Masters in Higher Education Administration from Ohio University. Emily lives in Pickaway County with her husband and three children.

Brooke Summers
Brooke Summers

Brooke is a lifelong resident of Pickaway County. She graduated from Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She continued her schooling at Capital University where
she received her Master’s degree in Literacy. After teaching first grade at Washington Elementary for nine years, she stayed home to raise her three children. Brooke is eager to return to the classroom and her Alma mater, Logan Elm, to help students plan their future.
She lives in Stoutsville with her husband Keith, their three boys, one dog and several 4H pigs.

Our Business and Community Partners