Streetsboro think tank tries to align business needs with education

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

The city of Streetsboro is partnering with Lorain County Community College and area businesses to better align businesses' workforce needs with education.

City leaders met Aug. 20 with LCCC and representatives from Permco, SoftLite Windows, Delta Systems, Viking Forge and Automated Packaging to determine manufacturers' requirements for attracting and retaining employees.

"What we learned was that our manufacturing base has a shortage crisis in filling positions with skilled workers, and LCCC can customize business models to fit our manufacturers' needs," said Sue Truby, economic development director for the city of Streetsboro.

Elizabeth Barry, president of Delta Systems, said communication between educators and local businesses is critical to businesses' future.

"Our meeting was essential to planning for the continued growth of our respective companies, and I applaud the mayor's efforts in this regard," she said.

Mayor Glenn Broska said it's important to connect businesses with high school students who aren't college bound.

"We need more public relations methods to educate our community that our manufacturing jobs are well-paying, sustaining jobs for students who need an alternative to a four-year college," he said.

In addition to the partnership with LCCC, city officials, Streetsboro Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Valerie Fiala and business representatives are working with Streetsboro High School Principal James Hogue, Streetsboro Middle School Principal Steve Hatch and other school officials to organize a tour of local business for seventh- through 10th-grade students.

Although the logistical details haven't been finalized, Hogue and Fiala said the tour would benefit students and businesses.

"We're trying to refocus the public's opinion about what industrial manufacturing has become," said Fiala. "It's going to be an awesome opportunity for the high school students if we can get them on board."

She said many manufacturing jobs are now sophisticated, featuring computerized operations and clean, healthy workplaces.

Hogue said seeing what types of opportunities may be available to them after graduation can sometimes motivate students to work harder both on their studies and their soft skills.

"A kid may see something and say, 'Oh, wow! This is a really good opportunity to make $14 an hour, maybe I should study,'" he said.

He said the high school has a small percentage of students who may see something that "motivates them to grow up a little faster and become a little more responsible in the workplace."

"Last year, we had a senior who worked all year at a company in Solon," said Hogue. "He was always on time; he was always well-presented."

And now, Hogue said, that graduate has a job at the company.

Truby said she hopes teachers and counselors also are able to go on the tour.

"We want to get the counselors involved and some of the teachers involved, so we can really build on what they have to offer," she said.

LCCC is working with business to identify training needs, but Truby said it's not clear how soon classes targeted at meeting those needs will be available.

"We've got to figure out the topics involved, how many folks might be interested in participating and location, and then we'll go from there," she said. She said the classes would be aimed at recent grads, adults seeking jobs and current employees of businesses looking to update their skills.

Soft-Lite LLC Chief Financial Officer Kyle Pozek said he's glad the think tank is bringing together educators, city officials and business leaders.

"It is indeed great that we are getting local businesses involved with local politicians and educators to bring the job opportunities that are out there together with the education people need to fill them," he said.

Broska said his ultimate goal is to bring a satellite school to Streetsboro to help meet local workforce needs.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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