ESC works to connect students with career opportunities


By Sheryl Roadcap

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TROY — Miami County Educational Service Center (ESC) is taking steps to help bridge the gap between education and industry within Miami County with the creation of two new positions at the ESC.

Liz Sonnanstine, of Tipp City, has been hired as its career connections coordinator. She has joined the ESC after 12 years as the executive director of the Tipp City Chamber of Commerce where she worked closely with businesses. Kristi Voisard, of Fort Loramie, has been hired for the position of career connections support. Voisard also worked for 12 years in her previous job in Shelby County as an instructional assistant with the Midwest Regional ESC within the Fort Loramie Local Schools.

The goal involved with the creation of these two new positions is to help connect graduating Miami County students with local industry by creating an awareness of opportunities for these students while meeting the needs of local businesses.

“I am very excited for the new challenge,” Sonnanstine said. “I think there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for our county to collaborate better; to maybe be able to break down some silos and share some information on how we can collaborate. I think it’s very exciting to spearhead this opportunity.”

The role Sonnanstine and Voisard will play will vary from meeting with businesses to principals and students to identify job opportunities available and identify the skill sets needed and to match up the interests and skills of students as they prepare for their future careers. The ESC hopes to eventually reach students as young as elementary-age at some point, but for now as they assimilate in their newly created roles, they aim to focus on high school-aged young people over this next year.

“I love working with kids. There is a joy that truly comes from the idea of connecting a student with a livelihood. That just brings me a lot of joy,” Voisard said. “I am so super excited about the opportunity of growth that these positions have in the sense of introducing career exploration … because a kid can only know what they see. …”

In their new positions at the ESC, Sonnanstine and Voisard say they will be meeting with all public schools and plan to help principals and/or their current career councilors implement programs that will help students with their career goals after graduation. Although some schools do have their own version of career/job fairs, at some point in the future, Sonnanstine and Voisard foresee possibly organizing a job fair for all Miami County schools and area businesses to attend meet in together in person. But before the stage of creating a job fair they also plan to try and coordinate business guest speakers to likely come into the schools.

The women say they have plans to meet with organizers in adjacent counties who already have established programs for guidance for the type of work they are embarking upon at the ESC.

Voisard said “Shelby County has had a well-oiled machine and set program in place for the past 15+ years” and that is one of the areas, among others, that she and Sonnanstine are looking to for an example of how to move forward with the program they are working to implement in Miami County.

Miami County ESC Superintendent David Larson said it is such important work to help young people find their career path and transition into a career after high school it was apparent they needed to bring on a team to help facilitate this goal.

“What we had found is that there was a real need to support our districts and workforce development and build those connections to our business communities so that there is collaboration with our K-12 schools and Miami County businesses,” Larson said. “And so out of the work through our Business Advisory Council, we determined that there is a lot more to do here that what we were able to do (by himself as superintendent.)

“We as a Business Advisory Council, we spent a lot of time over the last year and a half or so talking about the benefits of having staff that was dedicated to carrying out this work. And so we did a lot of investigating into with what other areas of the state were doing, and ended up developing partnerships with our schools and business community and government to be able to create a revenue stream in order to be able to fund these positions; this is not something that the state directly funds.”

He then went on to praise the local community of businesses and schools for recognizing the need and contributing to provide the funds for two new positions.

According to the ESC’s website, these new positions were made possible said with the contributions and partnerships of the following schools and organizations: Bethel Local Schools; the Bradford, Covington, Milton-Union and Tipp City Exempt Village School Districts; Piqua City Schools; Newton Local Schools; Troy City Schools; Miami Valley Career Technical Center; Miami Valley Community Investment Corporation (CIC); and the Piqua, Troy and Tipp City Chambers of Commerce; Troy Development Council and Grow Piqua Now.

“We were super excited to be able to bring Liz on in this position. Someone being uniquely positioned and uniquely qualified to carry this work out. Liz was on our Business Advisory Council as the Tipp City Chamber rep and has a real strong connection to the business community here in Miami County and we feel like with our connections through the schools and Liz’s background to the businesses in Miami County, we’re positioned very well to be able to provide this support that our schools and businesses need,” Larson said.

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