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.
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.
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:
- Ty Ankrom, Pickaway Co ESC Superintendent
- Natalie Blue, Ashville Propane – Business Owner
- Christine Boucher, Eastland-Fairfield Business Development
- Ronna Brisker, Teays Valley East, School Counselor
- Jean Droste, Community Member, former mayor of Circleville
- Wendy Elliott, Berger Health System, Sr. VP and COO
- Joy Ewing, Job & Family Services, Director
- Lisa Heins, Circleville City Schools, Curriculum Director
- Julie Kellough, Workforce Development Board, Area 20
- Hank Kelly, Ohio Christian University, Provost
- Beth Keplar, Teays Valley Schools, Director of Education and Learning
- Jill McFarland, Bob Evans Farms, HR Manager
- Stacie Robertson, Kenworth Truck Co/PACCAR, HR Manager
- Stacey Sark, P3- Economic Development Specialist
- Ryan Scribner, Pickaway County Economic Development Director
- Roxan Sigmon, Ohio Means Jobs Pickaway, Manager
- Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension, STEM/Community Development
- Jason Vesey, Pickaway Ross Secondary Principal
- Jennifer Williams, EG Industries, HR Manager
- Jay Wippel, Pickaway County Commissioner
- Michael Linton, Accurate Heating & Cooling Business Owner