For the first time a joint Lakota Schools and West Chester Liberty Chamber Alliance event included high school students directly interacting with area business leaders. The “community conversation” earlier this week at the Liberty Center’s Sabin Hall focused on how to improve the development of workforce skills among high school graduates to raise the quality of potential workers.

Businesses to Lakota students: Here’s what will help you get a job

The event proved so popular – with more than 70 adults and teens attending – that Lakota and its partner, the West Chester and Liberty Chamber Alliance, held the public forum at the Liberty Center’s Sabin Hall rather than the smaller chamber office conference room.

Participants, including nearly two dozen students from Lakota East and Lakota West high schools, worked for two hours in roundtable discussions sharing ideas on how best to develop personal and work skill qualities local employers are looking for.

These “soft skills” included critical thinking; adaptive learner; engaged citizen, persistent problem solver; effective communicator and responsible collaborator.

Locally and nationwide business leaders have lamented the relatively low personal and employment skill levels of high school and college graduates just entering the work force full-time.

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The expanding partnerships between businesses and the 16,500-student Lakota district, which is the 8th largest in Ohio, is a natural one with great potential, Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the Chamber Alliance told the crowd.

“As Lakota goes, so goes West Chester and Liberty townships,” said Hinson.

“Workforce development is such an important aspect … and one day you (students) will be here in this room as business persons,” Hinson told the group, which also included some Lakota school board members and trustees from the two townships.

MORE: Lakota Schools, chamber, Cincinnati State team up for new program

Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller’s two years in the office have been marked by a dramatic increase in community outreach programs both in person and digitally via social media engagement with the public.

The district holds dozens of “community conversations” at various locations around the school system’s communities in its two townships but its recent work with the chamber of commerce has expanded into jointly sponsored events.

Miller recently earned national recognition for his wide-ranging communication programs.

MORE: Lakota Schools leader wins national communicator award

Lauryn Dixon will be a senior at Liberty Twp.’s Lakota East High School in August.

“I’ve never been to a community conversation like this before. It was valuable to me to hear the perspective of business people,” said Dixon.

Classmate Samantha Peterson agreed, adding at a time in Ohio schools where so much emphasis is placed on student academic achievement as measured by standardized testing, it was a new experience to hear from potential future employers they also look for other qualities.

“I was really cool to learn from business people they are not just focusing on how well we do on tests,” said Peterson.

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