NEW KNOXVILLE — Speakers at the Auglaize Mercer Business Education Alliance (AMBE) Fall Breakfast at First Church of New Knoxville, Nov. 8, said the key to keeping young people in the local workforce pool is communication between educators, parents, business and students.
Through a panel discussion of AMBE members and a Governor’s Workforce Transformation presentation, the audience heard about the alliance’s mission to create a bridge between area businesses and schools that will connect students to the career opportunities in Mercer and Auglaize counties, through career resources, programs and events.
The panel members — Coldwater Principal Jason Hemmelgarn, Adjunct Professor Laura Koenig, Pax owner Jeff Pax, Hemmelgarn Benefits’ Randy Hemmelgarn, and Buschor Electric’s Jack Buschor — discussed their view of how important this work was.
Koenig said that her experience as a parent was what convinced her that AMBE services help young people feel they have time to make career decisions and that college is not always a first choice.
“Students are asked, ‘What do you want to do next?’ They feel they need to take action when making career choices without knowing what is involved.” She said her own child kind of “stumbled” into a technical career at Pax.
“How many parents know about this?” she asked.
Buschor agreed, saying that parent tours help them to be more comfortable with the decision process.
“They (students) may still be college-bound, but they know what opportunities are available back home afterwards,” he said.
AMBE works with schools to organize field trips, career fairs, work release and job-shadowing to encourage students to look at local career options.
Hemmelgarn said many didn’t know the legacy and scope of the businesses in the area. He called for an efficient way to serve both the education and business sides, with proper matching of kids to opportunities. Pax agreed, saying exposure is the best benefit, letting young people know college might not be essential to get well-paying manufacturing jobs in the area.
Buschor said it was “an eye-opener that today’s plants and machine shops are not dirty but instead highly technical places with $100,000 equipment and lots of responsibility for the operator.”
A presentation by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT) outlined what that office had learned from studying coalitions such as AMBE.
Director Ryan Burgess said they have used the outreach and coordination principles used by AMBE and other similar organizations as a template for the rest of the state of Ohio. He said their offices find it frustrating to get calls from businesses complaining about the lack of a sufficient workforce.
“We ask them, ‘Did you get hold of the schools?’” he said.
OWT Strategy and Partnership Lead Emily Fabiano complimented the initiative AMBE had taken in promoting an Ohio Means Jobs Readiness Seal, which can be added to a student’s high school transcript upon completion and shows the student’s readiness to work. The student must find three mentors who can attest to the student’s showing the 15 professional skills needed to be a good employee, which include reliability and attention to detail.
AMBE Board President Patty Cisco wrapped up the morning event with what was called the AMBE Call To Action. She said that they all had to be “relentless for the community” in making certain the local job opportunities are known.
“We can’t rely on others to do this,” she said.
She said technology has changed how businesses do things, and the need is there for tech-savvy young people. She said the AMBE process to create a partnership between business and schools helps ensure that the right kind of classes might be offered that would get students ready for the workforce.
Cisco said being a catalyst for change is what AMBE is responsible for. She pointed out that too many potential employees tell employers they don’t know what they want to do for a career, and that after being hired, subsequently quit.
“We could have been exposing and coaching, showing those students the opportunities and helping them choose the right career path,” she said.
She added that sometimes the discovery of an ideal career path comes later in life.
“I had a teacher in one of my orientations about career options who came to me later and said she realized she could have been a writer,” Cisco said. She added that the teacher now works for her company, Marketing Essentials.
She pointed out that “that is why we are here. To overcome obstacles and to make a commitment to make a difference in the community.”
Shelly Busse, executive director of AMBE Alliance, said after the breakfast that outreach plans are in place for next year. A complete listing can be found at AMBE website https://ambealliance.org/about-us/.
She said hundreds of high school students will be exposed to local career options through the March 6 and 7 Talent Connection Forum at Wright State University-Lake Campus. This event allows them to get answers to real-world questions and insight from the business professionals who work, own and operate the businesses.
She also said AMBE would host business tours in the summer for Mercer and Auglaize county teachers so they can learn about local businesses, what education and training is required, as well as what they looking for in employees. She said teachers can take the career information back to share with their students.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.