The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

June 6, 2013

Buckeye Community Partnership connects education and the private sector

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — A very unique initiative was born Wednesday for the local manufacturing community and the Buckeye Local School District.

The Buckeye Community Partnership links the school district and several local manufacturing facilities to help students prepare for their future with local career opportunities. The companies participating in this partnership are members of the Ashtabula Community Advisory Panel (CAP), which was formed in 1994 as a forum for open discussion between the CAP businesses and the surrounding community regarding the topics of health, safety and the environment.

About a year and a half ago, Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County got more involved in the local workforce development program, and around the same time, took over administration of CAP. As these discussions continued, they became more and more about the workforce and the need for qualified employees, said Brian Anderson, executive director for Growth Partnership.

The formation of the Buckeye Community Partnership coincides with the Buckeye Local School District’s plan to restructure its curriculum to better prepare students in their area of interest after graduation.

The district is in the process of developing three specific program areas for students to focus their studies on. The three programs will include a career focused program, a STEM focused program and a humanities focused program, said Joe Spiccia, superintendent.

Students will be required to participate in job shadowing, internships and mentorship experiences, regardless of the program they are involved in, he said.

The ultimate goal of the partnership is to engage the students in the local workforce and develop potential future employees for the companies.

“Superintendent Spiccia has been very proactive in making sure he is not just graduating students, but graduating students that could give back to the community,” Anderson said.

Spiccia said one of the things the district does is prepare students for life after school, whether it be college or the workforce.

“We are dedicated to the advancement of young people and dedicated to the advancement of the manufacturing community,” he said. “We want to prepare young people to be dedicated employees.”

The member companies of CAP and participants in the Buckeye Community Partnership include ASHTA Chemicals, Cristal, Gabriel Performance Products and Praxair.

Richard Jackson, executive vice president of operations for ASHTA Chemicals, said he likes the idea of developing students to meet the company’s needs as future employees.

Tyce Workman, director of quality and regulatory affairs for Gabriel Performance Products, said when he asks students if they plan on leaving the county after they graduate, the majority of them say “yes.” As an Ashtabula County native, he said he takes that personally and will work to keep as many of them in the county as possible.

“This relationship has to happen,” he said. “I’m very excited about it.”

Tim Honkala, facilities superintendent for Praxair, said he is excited about the partnership and the opportunity to share his expertise with local students.

“I want to interact with students and give them an idea what a chemical engineer does,” he said. “I’m really excited about sharing all this information and guiding them into a career.”

Sherry Wilber, human resources and community relations director for Cristal, said she was one of those students who wanted to graduate and leave the county, that Workman referred to.

“No one told me about the opportunities we have here,” she said. “If I would have had someone tell me, my paths might have been different.”

Spiccia said the idea is to prepare each student to his or her specific needs. The students will interact with the companies and the parents will be engaged in the process as well.

Ashtabula County Commissioner Peggy Carlo commended the effort.

“Kudos to all you,” she said. “We have to keep our bright children and young adults in the county. Ohio is a great place to live. Northeast Ohio is even better and Ashtabula County is even, even better.”

Among those in attendance for the announcement of the partnership, Wednesday, were representatives from Gov. John Kasich’s office and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

“I think this is an opportunity for Ashtabula County, both in the schools and the private sector, to really be a leader,” Anderson said.

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