In this episode, host Joel Gagne is joined by Rick Smith, Superintendent of the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in Bellefontaine, Ohio, about career centers partnering with the business community.

Joel begins by asking why career centers partnering with the business community is important. Rick says he often hears about a looming workforce crisis—an estimated 4 million unfilled jobs in the next five years—that will affect businesses across all industries throughout the country.

“There really seems to be a concern about where the next generation of workforce is coming from and how will we keep our communities, our state, and even our country strong,” Rick says. “So I think it’s really important that we can discuss together, business and education, about how we might address some of these concerns.”

Rick believes the issue is a marketing gap, and not necessarily a skills gap. Young people need to understand what these well-paying, available jobs entail.

“I think students today are smart enough and capable of doing the job, but we still have a lot of people thinking, I’m going to school for the primary purpose of going to college,” he says. “That can be the right direction to go for certain jobs out there, but there’s also plenty of… six-figure jobs that don’t necessarily require a college education but do require continuing education and continuing training. Those are the type of things that are out there that we need to market better and explain to not only students, but to parents, so that people really understand their options.”

Joel asks how to go about building the partnership between career centers and the business community. Rick says the parties need to communicate and really listen to one another. Educators can learn from businesses about what issues are out on the horizon, and businesses can learn about the capabilities of schools by talking with representatives from career centers.

Joel and Rick discuss the opportunities for students in the business community, including job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships. Rick says Ohio laws allow students younger than 18 to work as part of a career tech program.

They talk about the importance of getting exposed to real work environments. Rick uses the example of how a student may know they want to be in the automotive field but how they may be unsure about their specific focus within the field.

Joel wraps up the episode by asking how a school can begin to build business partnerships in the community.

Rick suggests businesses reach out to their local chamber of commerce or talk to the local career center’s superintendent.

“Ask if they have a job coordinator, or an internship coordinator or a job-to-work person so they can sit down and hear what your needs are and how they might match up a student,” he says.

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