SIDNEY — “A new way of thinking.”
That’s what the Sidney City Schools Workforce Academy is going to provide its students — new way of thinking about education and their future.
The Workforce Academy, which was officially dedicated Thursday evening at Sidney High School, is a joint effort between the school district and businesses in the county. Its goal — to prepare the student to enter the workforce in Shelby County.
“This is something that has been three-plus years in the making,” said SHS Principal Jon Geuy. “I have dreamed about his a long time - 20 years at least.”
Geuy said as he drives to work at the high school he sees the sign Emerson-Copeland has at their business — A new way of thinking.
“This is important in our society,” said Geuy.”We have to know what we are teaching the student and what is the source of what we are teaching.”
The Workforce Academy, he said, will help the students prepare for the changing workforce in today’s world.
‘The job market has changed,” said Geuy, whose father is a fourth generator contractor. “We need to take that challenge” and prepare today’s students for it.
The Workforce Academy, which has the backing of more than 30 county businesses, is the first of its kind in the state of Ohio, said Geuy.
“We will be successful,” he said. “We are taking a novel approach to it as it’s being guided by the businesses.”
The information being taught to the students is being driven by what the employers in the county need to make their businesses successful.
“My dad, as we sat around the kitchen table, always said be on time for your job, be there every day and be drug free,” said Geuy. “That’s important and will be taught in the classroom. It’s our new way of thinking.”
Superintendent John Scheu said this is an “exciting time for Sidney and Shelby County.”
“We have a goal of trying to accomplish and teach the necessary skills to make them (students) successful in their own backyards.
“Our business partners have donated more than $200,000 for furniture and technology for the program,” he said. “We have 150 students at the high school enrolled in the program. The seventh and eighth grade students will have a mini-course for one nine weeks of the program also.”
Dr. Richard Ross, state superintendent, Ohio Department of Education, said he was extremely pleased with the program.
“This is a very exciting thing,” said Ross. “You will plug the students from your community into the workforce. The connecting of the schools to jobs is so important today.”
Ross said it’s important to show the students that they can stay in their communities where there are jobs.
“You are preparing the students to go into the workforce,” he said.
The state of Ohio, said Ross, will be creating 47 million new jobs in the near future. The students in the Workforce Academy are training for those jobs.
Ross said there are things employers want besides employees trained for the job — they want employees who show up on time — employees who work hard — employees who get along with everyone.
“The employees also have to adapt quickly to a changing environment,” said Ross. “They have to put themselves into their employers world.
“Today’s workforce is global. Employees have to be able to community, have interpersonal skills, take on leadership roles and motivate their teams,” said Ross.
Ross said 24,000 Ohio students drop out of school every year because they can’t make a connection of school and the outside world. Having business leaders go into a school program through a partnership like the one in Sidney will make a difference to all the students.
“This is an exciting moment in time,” said Mick Given, president of Ferguson Construction and chairman of the Workforce Partnership Advisory Board.
“I’m so proud of each partner,” said Given. “They have stepped up for the program. We have a mobile classroom that will go out to the county schools. The businesses said ‘we’ve got to do it right. We have to show them (students0 that we care.’”
The county schools, said Given, will be the “spokes to the wheel. They will be part of this organization.”
The mobile classroom — an Airstream trailer — will go around to the county schools. There will be displays from the businesses for the students to look at and videos for them to watch.
Freshway Foods is one of the business partners in the program.
“There is a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding the Workforce Academy in the business industry,” said Tony Arnold, director of human resources. “The program is built for success as it connects both the school and local companies. We have so many great job opportunities right here in our backyard.
“This program is designed to deliver qualified candidates to fill the needs of many growing companies in both Sidney and Shelby County. We are certainly excited here at Freshway,” he said.
Sharon Maurice has been hired as the first Workforce Academy director. She’s looking forward to the challenge of starting a new program for the district.
“I taught career tech for five years,” said Maurice. “I saw how it changed my students. Businesses coming in will enhance the classroom. The county businesses haven’t said no to anything, they ask how fast can we get it done.
“Knowledge is power,” said Maurice of what the classes will provide to the students.
The students’ day will be changing every day.
“The students will be learning and I’ll be the facilitator of that learning,” she said. “They will go on field trips and learn about the businesses here.”
There are two semester classes involved in the program, she said. The first semester will be a career academy while the second semester will be a skills academy.
“We are going to present all the options for careers to the students. They will explore them and do an assessment of what they want. They’ll develop a career plan. If they want to go to college, they will figure out what the degree will cost them and the job opportunities available to them. Then they’ll do some more exploration.”
Two of the students in first Workforce Academy program are brothers Ray Lewis, 14, and Austin Martin, 15, son of Tom and Becky Martin.
“This is stuff that I like to do,” said Lewis, who is a freshman. “My dad does construction work s he does a lot of things. I decided to open up myself to a variety of things and try this.
“I saw this as my opportunity to take it and go with it,” he said.
Martin said he “encouraged myself” to try the program.
“I though it’d be cool,” he said.
After the ceremony, Ross said Sidney City Schools is addressing the need for qualified employees in a comprehensive way.
“They are connecting the jobs with the students,” said Ross. “Ten percent students under 18 have any work experience. I was a farm guy so I learned how to work hard, be on time, be drug free and dress appropriately. Those are all show the importance of job connections.
“When I learned of this program a year and a half ago, I said ‘hurray,’” said Ross. “I’ve watched their progress and it’s essential for me to see what’s to come. This is the culmination of the first phase. The second phase is to make it work and to tweak it along the way.”