Sen. Bill Coley says new college-workplace partnership will ‘make a huge difference’

New legislation requiring the Ohio Department of Higher Education to create a workforce-education partnership program at public universities and colleges across Ohio is being pushed by a local lawmaker.

The bill’s sponsor, Ohio Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., said the proposed law would “make a huge difference.”

Inspired by AK Steel officials recounting their largely unsuccessful efforts a few years ago to recruit recent graduates from Middletown High School, Coley said the anecdote was eye-opening for the need for better coordination between schools and private industry.

Coley said AK officials told graduating seniors they could start at $50,000 a year working in their Butler County facility and earn about twice that with overtime.

All that was required of the teenagers was to successfully complete high school and pass a drug test. Coley said only five graduates applied and three failed drug tests.

“We got to change what’s going on if we are going to be effective,” said Colely during a press conference this week.

In one example given, the proposed work and school cooperative programs would allow students to attend at Miami University Hamilton’s campus and also work part-time for area employers needing workers.

One of the new program’s goals is to allow students to earn two and four-year degrees with less college loan debt.

The new approach would most help the teenagers and young adults of low income families who can’t afford to pay college tuition, he said.

Coley was joined by Miami University President Gregory Crawford at the press conference in Columbus.

“It’s a great idea and this program solves a lot of problems for students,” said Crawford.

“Employers are looking for great employees. After four years you’ll have a student with a degree from an Ohio university graduating … with experience in work place on their resume,” he said.

Students will apply to both area companies and colleges. Once they are hired by employers and accepted as college enrollees in post-secondary schools, they will work part-time while also attending school. Companies will be flexible with work hours to best accommodate students’ class times.

Colely said the proposed bill would require the Ohio Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education “to work with us” in developing the program throughout the state.

“We are not asking for a lot of (state) dollars,” he said. “We’re asking for coordination.”

“We think this will be a tremendous success for Ohio,” he said.

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