VAN WERT — Earlier this month, 24 local (elementary, middle school and high school) educators gathered for the annual weeklong Education on Location. This Ashland University-sanctioned course offered continuing education units required by the Ohio Department of Education as well as three credit hours towards a degree. The event was coordinated by the local Business Advisory Council and the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation.

All Ashland tuition was paid for by Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted’s Office of Workforce Transformation. Funding for 11 other teacher “bootcamps” in the state paid for attendees to receive Ashland credits. Bootcamps are scheduled in the counties of Williams, Henry, Fulton, Paulding, Huron, Sandusky, Erie, Ottawa, Putnam, Marion, and Fostoria.

The goal of the week was to enlighten teachers with local career opportunities for the students they teach. By touring Vancrest, Van Wert Health, Cooper Farms, Trucent Renewable Chemicals, Braun Ambulances, Alliance Automation, GKN, National Door & Trim and Window Creations and hearing from professionals at Danfoss, Alexander & Bebout, KennFeld Group, Central Insurance, Economic Development, Crown, Ohio Means Jobs Van Wert, Spherion Staffing and Van Wert County Foundation, attendees gained insight into the products and services of local companies. More importantly, they gained an understanding of the vast number of local jobs for engineers, medical professionals, skilled trades, logistics, machine operators, and lab scientists. A desired outcome is that teachers use this information to enlighten and prepare students as they journey the path towards a successful career.

Teachers learned about the “soft skills” employers desire. Dependability, customer service, communication and critical thinking were among the top traits employers say they need in order for success and longevity of their employees. Many jobs (including engineering positions at Alliance Automation) do not require a degree to hire in. Employers like Braun, National Door & Trim, Trucent Renewable Chemicals and Alexander & Bebout need those willing to learn and strive to grow with the company, becoming an industry expert and many times, receiving financial assistance for certifications and degrees obtained as they work.

Teachers joined the monthly Business Advisory Council meeting to provide feedback on their experience. Along with positive comments about useful information gained, they indicated even greater guidance could be provided to students if eighth grader business tours were scheduled, and business-visit days for juniors and seniors (like college visit days) were promoted.

A strong message was that kids don’t need to go away to college be successful. Van Wert Area Economic Development heard from employers who want to promote from within, offer tuition reimbursement and even pay engineers with mechanical aptitude and experience who don’t have an engineering degree.

Educators will be able to enlighten students that a willingness to learn and work hard can be successful without accruing large college debt. Employers are willing to provide the training for these great careers when the worker brings these soft skills to the table.

Students have many paths to success in today’s working world. Vantage Career Center is a high-tech, in-demand career center that trains students in preparation for an almost endless number of high paying, high esteemed jobs. Students who have proven themselves to be accountable in the classroom are given the opportunity to work part time during the school day at a local business and try out that career. This is a win-win for the student and the employer.

Career Education Opportunity (CEO) also allows seniors to leave for part of the school day and work at a local business. Students are expected to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities given to them just as they would if they were a full-time employee. “Kids get professional experience in a work environment and determine if this path is a good one for them to pursue after graduation,” according to program manager, Kerry Koontz. “Some of the best success stories of the program weren’t the ones where a student fell in love with the career and went on to become a professional in the field (although in many situations, this is the case), but the kids who tried a career they thought they wanted and discovered they hated it.”

For more information contact Jane Schmid, Workforce Development Manager at Van Wert Area Economic Development, 145 E. Main St., Van Wert, Ohio at 419-238-2999,