CIRCLEVILLE — Pickaway WORKS presented an update on their initiatives ahead of their formal request for funding for 2020 from the Pickaway County Commissioners.

Christy Mills, executive director, and Ryan Scribner, president of the Pickaway WORKS Board, updated the Pickaway County Commissioners on some of their initiatives they’ve started and grown in 2019 and what they look to do moving forward.

Mills said they’ve been designated as the business advisory council for each of Pickaway County’s four public schools, something the state mandated each district in the state have.

“We’ve made a focused effort to include more business owners and business people on our board and we’re really balanced in that way now,” Mills said. “That is a trend we want to continue. Our role as a business advisory council is to advise the school district to the state of economic conditions in the area and recommend curriculum changes so they can tweak what they’re doing.”

Mills said the schools have been open-minded to the suggestions coming from Pickaway WORKS, and gave an example of a program at Westfall.

“They’re working on doing them with no funding from the Ohio Department of Education to do it,” she said. “At Westfall they have created during their flex period, getting buy in from the staff, and every staff member is taking a group of students for two weeks and teaching a soft skill to that group of students. As an example they had a session called ‘pit stop’ where one teacher is taking students and teaching them basic car maintenance like how to change a tire and check for oil. Another one they did was called ‘chopped’ that was about food prep including shopping and meal planning not just cooking.”

According to Mills, Pickaway WORKS started a local human resources professional group to help them prepare students for the workforce.

“We’ve got a nice core group of folks that helps us with the business advisory council because these are the folks hiring and firing people and know what the talent needs are,” Mills explained. “What I like about it is there are a lot of strong personalities that are engaged. We’ve updated our resumes, interview questions, and everything we’ve been doing I’ve had them look at to see if it’s relevant and what students are faced with.”

Mills said they’ve made it a focus to make sure students get opportunities to job shadow.

“We want to really intentionally increase our job shadow opportunities for students,” Mills continued. “We want to provide students with more real world connections and experiences to help them in their career plan. This is something I’d like to see grow and I think it’s the answer. When a student has a chance to go and participate in a work scenario it creates realistic expectations of what’s going on out there and it can be really eye opening. I think some of the best job shadow experiences are bad ones and the failures are impactful and beneficial.”

One such opportunity was Manufacturing Day that was held in October in which students visited two different factories and heard from a special guest speaker, an event Mills called a success

“It was huge and we had six local manufacturers open their doors for the day and we had five busloads of students rallied at the fairgrounds,” she remarked. “That’s something that we’ll continue to do.”

Mills feels students are more isolated and aren’t working as much as previous generations during the summer and while they’re in school so that makes these experiences even more valuable.

“Our time is very well spent on getting students out there, even if they very much hate it,” Mills stated. “I think that’s great because it’s one year of college or time you didn’t waste.”

Mills and Scribner shared that they’re looking for a grant funding, through the industry sector program to potentially create a database of employers with job shadow or internship opportunities for students and that they may ask for additional support from the commissioners on any matching funds as part of those grants.

“My dream for this is to be a comprehensive formalized system that we can keep track of data and have a system that’s county wide,” she said.

Scribner said there is one opportunity P3 is working on.

“We’re going to see how creative we can get with the funding,” Scribner told The Circleville Herald. “I think there’s a need for some capital to help with some structural things to help with this database which is just a spreadsheet internally. This is a utility that we don’t have that I think can be a force multiplier for the small operation that we have right now.”

Mills also shared that while they’ve been focused on jobs and making connections with the business community, they’ve not stopped their work on helping students with post-secondary education.

“None of this WORKS initiative is saying don’t go to college it’s just that there are many more options and entry points on the pipeline than going to college,” Mills said. “You can do it all according to your ambition. We just want to make sure the middle that we felt wasn’t being included before was included.”

Prior to the visit from Mills and Scribner, the Pickaway County Commissioners had already approved doubling their share of funding for the organization raising their contribution from $10,000 per year to $20,000 per year.

That money, alongside funding provided by each of the four public school districts, funds the organization and its programs.

“We believe in it and we want it to be successful,” Brian Stewart, Pickaway County Commissioner, said. “None of this is mandated; all of this is our board and school districts deciding that we can do this locally to help ourselves.”

Jay Wippel, Pickaway County Commissioner, compared the organization to the economic development entity, P3, that was started out of the commissioner’s office.

“It’s been something this office has always wanted to have and so we put our money where we’re at and we see the result,” Wippel concluded.

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