August GSL Column: Harnessing a partnership between business and education

As we head back to school in August, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that education and the workforce are intertwined.

I’ve previously discussed the necessity of creating early childhood learning opportunities, both in the home and in preschool, to help start a culture of learning in Ross County that will last a lifetime.

Our community has to continue to improve preschool education programs while we also work with K-12 students.

But there’s more to do. Creating job readiness programs for students (and those coming out of recovery, too) is a step. Providing specific job training, college tuition support, learning new skills related to new technologies,

Government and businesses must find ways to re-engage young people between 16 and 24 years old who are not already in school or the workforce. Their partners must step up as well.

We, at the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce, understand that principle. We intend to take a leading role in coordinating efforts between business and education in the coming year. Finding ways to help bolster knowledge and skills that can be used straight out of high school for those who want to enter the workforce is a priority.

Businesses need workers who understand new technology and possess the soft skills to easily transition into the workforce. The hope is to provide the incentive of a solid job with good pay and benefits as an incentive to complete the classwork and other obligations to obtain the diploma.

It’s a rich workforce pool, too. According to an April 2021 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 63 percent of 2020 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities this coming fall – meaning 37 percent of those graduates are entering the workforce. We know the rate in Ohio was about the same. If high-paying jobs are available for those entering the workforce – and their skills can match the employer’s needs – we can make significant progress.

Schools win in this symbiotic relationship as well. They get additional support (sponsorships, partnering on educational programs, etc.) and workplace training, and hands-on experience for students. Internships are just one way businesses can help expose young people to the opportunities that await once their grade school years end.

We already have great examples in our community. Pickaway-Ross Career and Technology Center traditionally produces quality, workforce-ready graduates – many of whom walk off the graduation dais into a job. In fact, many of them – like 2021 Student of the Year Shaylee Bragdon – spent their senior year working. By the time she graduated, Shaylee had earned her STNA and worked for months as a nurse’s aide at Westmoreland Place on her way to becoming a trauma nurse.

Her story is just one of many like it at Pickaway-Ross. The same stories are repeated in the Diesel and Heavy Truck Mechanics program and several others.

The leadership displayed by outgoing superintendent Dennis Franks helped lay a foundation that I know new superintendent Jonathan Davis (himself a Zane Trace graduate) wants to expand upon.

Imagine the impact on the workforce if we can harness the partnership between business and education to create lifelong learners who want to grow their skills and knowledge as young people. What does the community look like if we produce intelligent, vibrant, young workers who want to keep learning and growing their abilities?

Our community is becoming a vibrant place people all over the region look to as a leader in revitalization. The next field for us to tackle is our workforce. The time is now, and the opportunity is in front of us.

Mike Throne is president and CEO of the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce and a Pickaway-Ross board member. He’s also a co-host, with Marty Ford, of the Feels Like Home podcast, which is available wherever you get your podcasts. You can reach him at