WILMINGTON — The Wilmington News Journal recently sat down with members of the Clinton County Workforce Collaborative to talk about their latest project, the upcoming Career Exploration Fair set for Sept. 28.
At the question-and-answer session were: Curt Bradshaw, with the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center; Ruth Brindle, with the Clinton County Port Authority; Shea Havens-White, with Laurel Oaks/Great Oaks Career Campuses; and Dessie Rogers, with the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce,
At the Chamber’s annual luncheon this past June, you mentioned you would be hosting a Career Exploration Fair this fall. What led you all to decide to host the event?
Rogers: “In May 2019, the Chamber, OhioMeansJobs Clinton County, the Port Authority, and the Southern Ohio ESC all joined together for the community’s first collaborative job fair. We partnered with Wilmington City Schools to include both high school students as well as job-seeking community members. It was a success, and our plans were to continue this event annually.
”Of course, the pandemic diverted those plans the following year and then our joint focus in 2021 was on the creation of the Clinton County Workforce Collaborative. The pandemic amplified many of the workforce challenges that businesses had been facing pre-COVID-19 and created new obstacles for employers and employees.
“The Workforce Collaborative was formed in June 2021 to bring together the voices of business, education, and other partners to collectively identify top workforce challenges and prioritize and implement next steps/projects. Our ‘School & Community Connections’ working group immediately identified a Clinton County Career Exploration Fair as one of their priority initiatives.”
With the amount of involvement by the schools in planning the event, what would you say is the goal of the Fair?
Bradshaw: “In order to ensure the Clinton County Workforce Collaborative designed an experience that met the needs of the current student population in Clinton County, we knew that we needed to involve our area schools in the co-creation of this event.
“One of the primary goals of this fair is to build hands-on experiences for students while creating awareness of workforce opportunities right here in Clinton County. Part of our intended audience for this fair are students who are at a point in their educational journeys where they are making decisions about their next steps beyond high school. Our goal is that this event will support those students in better understanding what workforce opportunities exist right here in their home community.”
Havens-White: “Part of the beauty of this event is that it will highlight and showcase career opportunities that are available here in Clinton County. This component will be very important for employees who are interested in learning more about long-term career pathways and not just a ‘job’ that may or may not align with an individual’s interests and skills. This fair will build awareness of career pathways that both students and current employees in the community can use in career planning and professional advancement.”
How is this Career Exploration Fair different from a traditional job fair?
Rogers: “The concept of an interactive and engaging Career Exploration Fair was modeled after ‘Inspire to Hire’ events held in the Cincinnati and Dayton regions by a non-profit organization called Junior Achievement (JA). JA works with students on the core content areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy and their ‘Inspire’ events specifically aim to get students excited about their futures by exploring career opportunities.
”It felt like a perfect fit for our local goals, so we reached out to JA for advice and were thrilled when they offered to formally partner with us to co-create this event in Clinton County.”
Bradshaw: “This career fair is meant to be an immersive experience that allows students and other members of the community to explore – firsthand – careers available in their community. We are excited to partner with employers who are not only looking to grow their workforce for today’s needs, but also build a pipeline of interested young people as they enter the workforce beyond high school.
“This event is not a typical job fair where participants will collect business cards and fill out job applications. Instead, this experience is meant to encourage students and other community participants to think about their own interests and envision a career pathway that enables them to capitalize on those interests.
“Until we can ‘see’ a career pathway, we don’t always understand what it involves or how we can get ourselves there. This event will allow students and other community members to envision a future in a career that supports a passion and brings fulfillment.”
What else would say to a Clinton County business who is considering participation in the Fair?
Brindle: “The structure and schedule of the Career Fair gives you the advantage of tapping into two different sectors of the workforce in one day. In the morning and early afternoon, you’ll have access to tomorrow’s employees.
“By generating excitement in your industry with today’s students, you’re creating a talent pipeline so that when those students enter the workforce, they already have an interest in the industry and an understanding of what it takes to work for you.
”In the late afternoon, when the Career Fair opens to community members, you’ll be talking to potential employees who have a connection and commitment to the community, workers who are already in Clinton County, which makes recruitment easier because there aren’t challenges related to relocation.
“And because the Career Fair is open only to businesses in Clinton County, you get exclusive access to all of these individuals. It really is a win-win event.”
The Career Exploration Fair will be held on Wednesday, September 28, at the Laurel Oaks Career Campus, 300 Oak Drive, in Wilmington. The Fair will be open to schools from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and to members of the community from 3 to 6 p.m.
Businesses interested in participation should visit https://bit.ly/CCWCCareerFair to register. Registration fees are based on the number of employees in Clinton County: $50 for businesses with 1 to 99 employees; $150 for businesses with 100 to 499 employees; and $250 for businesses with more than 500 employees. The registration deadline is August 31.
About the Clinton County Workforce Collaborative
The Clinton County Workforce Collaborative was created to cooperatively tackle the critical and multi-faceted issues surrounding Clinton Count’s workforce needs by bringing together a combination of business, education, non-profit, government, and economic/community development partners throughout Clinton County.
The Collaborative is open to anyone from the business, non-profit, education, and community/economic development sectors who would like to become more involved in collaborative solutions to the workforce challenges within Clinton County.
Learn more about the Workforce Collaborative at wccchamber.com/workforce-collaborative/.