Springfield Resurgence: Building the economy with education

Stephanie Marple teach a class of nursing students Monday, July 11, 2022 at Clark State College. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Stephanie Marple teach a class of nursing students Monday, July 11, 2022 at Clark State College. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

As part of their plan to revitalize the Springfield economy, area economic development leaders partnered with local colleges and universities to develop a workforce that is prepared for various types of professions, including technology-related jobs.

The local education system — which created a pipeline of potential employees — combined with a strategic approach to economic development have been successful thus far, said Greater Springfield Partnership Vice President of Economic Development Horton Hobbs.

“Part of where we are today is a culmination of a very strategic approach to economic development that goes after our strengths, but then also works with our education system to provide a pipeline of future employees,” he said.

There are many segments in the economy that have cross industrial purposes across needs, Hobbs added.

“We actually map that out, and we know what positions do that and what kinds of education those individuals need, whether it’s just on the job training or it it’s a technical degree or even a four year degree, and we’re working with our colleges and universities to understand that and to help make sure that we’re equipping our workforce with agile tools,” he said.

The partnership is working on not only a state model, but a national model for how to handle workforce development, which Greater Springfield Partnership President and CEO Mike McDorman said the differentiator is from a job’s perspective and the ability to articulate to prospects how they’re going to get them the workforce.

The model is built on a collaborative of businesses, nonprofits to government who meet and discuss the issues. McDorman explained that with developing technology, there’s the ability to test students, their attitudes, likes, dislikes and what they want to do, then “tie” the careers into that and show the number of jobs they can take advantage of locally.

“That is going to be a huge paradigm shift for how we not only grow talent in Springfield, but how we retain it and we believe we have a huge opportunity there,” he said.

Institutions such as Clark State College have taken steps to prepare area residents for the types of jobs that will help boost the local economy. In recent years they’ve developed credit, non-credit, certificate, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs.

“Innovation and alignment of regional workforce needs are part of the DNA of Clark State since its inception,” said President Jo Alice Blondin.

The college has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Addiction and Integrated Treatment Studies, to the non-credit Contact Tracing program that was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It also has one of the largest Associate Degree Nursing programs in the state and “continues to educate and train healthcare workers for our region and beyond,” Blondin said.

ExploreThe Resurgence of Springfield

The college’s School of Health, Human and Public Services has a Nursing Advisory Committee made up of local industry partners and higher education institutions that help students enter the workforce.

“A number of our students and graduates work with Springfield Regional and Premier Health as these partners are representative of advisory committee and clinical sites,” said Chris Green, assistant dean for the school of health, human and public services.

The program attracts a lot of students, and offers multiple options such as registered nursing as well as a nursing pathway for high school students.

“All of our nursing students complete clinical rotations in local hospitals and many of these experiences lead to job offers for our students,” said Rhonda Sommers, dean for the school of health, human and public services.

The community is blessed to have an institution such as Clark State as it has specialized programs that some companies officials are trying to attract look for, McDorman said.

“Clark State has been very successful in developing responsive degree programs to address regional workforce needs,” Blondin said.

Wittenberg University has also been successful in its response to workforce development in the area.

The university’s curriculum offers more than 80 majors, minors and special programs. In addition, the school recently developed a new Connections Curriculum to combine coursework in multiple disciplines with hands-on learning experiences.

“The goal is to ensure that every Wittenberg student graduates highly skilled, well-rounded, and exceptionally well prepared for whatever comes next,” said President Michael Frandsen.

The university continues to add new academic programs to help students into the workforce, including nursing, exercise science, sport management, data science, digital media, and cybersecurity and criminology concentrations. They also offer many outlets of support that help aid in workforce development, including student-faculty research opportunities and holistic career preparation, as well as the teacher education program that has been a “sought-after pipeline” for local teachers.

“With these accomplishments and continuing forward momentum, we believe we are poised for even greater success,” Frandsen said.

ExploreSpringfield resurgence: Years of groundwork bears fruit

To help retain employees, the partnership has adapted a “dual strategy” after mostly focusing on encouraging people to both live and work in the city. With the city’s proximity to Interstate 70, people can easily live in Springfield and commute to work in Columbus or the Dayton area, and vice versa.

“We know more about how much of our population is going somewhere else (to work) than we ever have before. We know that 56% of our workforce leaves every day for something else,” he said. “We are now working very hard with our partners to tell a different story about the opportunities that exist today, and we’re also doing that very strategically with the schools and the employers.”

McDorman pointed out that Global Impact STEM Academy has been a “huge game changer” for the city. He said local schools put out a lot of talent, but since they are bigger districts, the stem school can help fill that gap and potentially grow into areas that are next generation jobs.

GISA opened its door in August 2013 and started out at Clark State with less than 50 ninth grade students. It then moved into the Springfield Center of Innovation (The Dome) in 2015, expanded to seventh and eighth grade in 2016 when the student demand outnumber the capacity, and started 2017 with 7-12 grades.

The school saw “incredible growth” during those first four years and became involved in almost all state initiatives that came its way, said Founding Director Joshua Jennings. At the end of those four years, the school built out its programming to include embedded agricultural principals across all disciplines and specific technology programs that was required by all students.

The courses included plant and animal biotechnology, food science, environmental science for agriculture, food and natural resources, bioresearch, and a required capstone project for seniors. Over the years, the programming has also been expanded to include courses in engineering, information technology and agriculture pathway.

GISA’s success can be measured by student success and opportunity, demand for programming, community, partnership engagement, and awards and recognitions, Jennings said.

“We originally started with a vision of what could be with nothing tangible to share with prospective students and families. Although not perfect, our team has created what we feel to be, is a model for other schools in creating relevance and rigor in teaching and learning,” he said.

This past year, 91 students graduated from GISA, and 32 graduated with an associate degree from Clark State.

“Those kids graduated with an associate’s degree. Think about that. That’s unbelievable,” Hobbs said. “That’s proof positive to a business when they’re coming here.”

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