A press conference was held in Columbus announcing a new workforce – education partnership. Photo Credit: Collin Finn

New Workforce Education Partnership

Staff Report- Butler County Connect

Senator Bill Coley (R-Liberty Township) announced a partnership with Miami University Hamilton on a new program that will provide college students with part-time jobs in the local workforce, college tuition and housing.“Ohio is a great place to live, work and raise a family, and we are attracting more and more businesses into the state of Ohio. We have to have the workforce to match that,” said State Senator Bill Coley in a recent press conference. Live from the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, he said the new initiative will provide a critical role in Ohio’s workforce development by providing opportunities for students by matching them with local employers.  

Other officials in attendance included Ohio State Representative Sara Carruthers, Dr. Gregory Crawford, President of Miami University, Randi Thomas, Director of Institutional Relations at Miami University, and Rob Brundrett of Ohio Manufacturers Association, among others.“What we are unveiling today is a program that’s going to start at the Miami University branch campus in Hamilton. We are going to have a program where we are going to have 50 or more students…They are going to enroll in Miami University’s Hamilton campus, and they are going to take a job with one of several employers in the area. We have three companies that have committed to it, and they are each taking groups of 10 to 20 students.” Coley said.

Students graduate with no debt

Students who participate in the collaborative program will work part-time, typically 20 to 25 hours per week, with one of the participating companies. In return, students will receive a wage, tuition, and supportive housing.“It’s our goal that these students will graduate with degrees and they are going to be able to graduate with no debt…We wanted programs like this where kids could major in anything they want, but they will work, go to school, and be able to graduate,” said Coley. He said there will also be support for the students from inside the companies as well as mentors from Miami University who will help guide them as they work and go to school. Coley hopes to expand the workforce-education program by proposing a bill that will encourage other colleges and universities to initiate similar programs across Ohio.“The purpose of the legislation that we’re dropping is asking that the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education will work with us, and help create a template that we can take this around the state and work in all our local communities with our local employers and create something that will work, and develop this throughout the State of Ohio so we can really support our employers,” he said.  Students will benefit by having better awareness of job requirements and career opportunities. Local companies will have greater access to more skilled workers.

Job creation. Job retention. Job training. Tax incentives.

A few of the goals of the program include job creation, job retention, job training, and tax incentive programs.“This is a great idea, and when Senator Coley brought it to us, we took off with it. We’ve been working on it for about a year, and it’s just been an amazing partnership, along with all of the co-sponsors who are backing us as well,” said Crawford. He said the program will allow students to graduate with any degree. They will be debt-free and will be able to make some money as a result of their work experience. Employers will benefit by training and growing skilled workers.“We can not just deliver great employees with these Miami students at our regional campuses, but they will probably stick with the companies for four years. So, the length of time and the retention of these employees is fantastic,” Crawford said. The program will benefit the students, employers, universities and beyond. Students will apply to the university and to the company, and then the students will be placed with a company, working a part-time with a flexible schedule. In return, the program will result in great talent working at the companies. It will also ready experienced graduates to work at Ohio companies after graduation.“This one of those situations in higher education, where it truly is a win-win-win situation. We are grateful to be part of this, certainly as a university, but we’re also grateful to be taking the lead. I think it’s going to be a model template that can propagate throughout Ohio and deliver a great workforce that Ohio needs right now. So, we’re excited,” Crawford said.

Helping families afford higher education

Legislators have said that partnerships that nurture, grow and diversify the talent pipeline are vital to Ohio’s overall economic development strategy. Skilled workers are needed in areas such as the construction trade and in the health care field, to name a few.  “We think this will be a tremendous success for Ohio…We think we can really change how things are working here in the state of Ohio,” Coley said. Following the program launch, Coley answered several questions from audience members, which ranged from the importance of buy-in for high school students and the economic impact on families to how the program can help employers prepare for the future and how the initiative plays into a larger state-wide workforce development plan.

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