Local leaders at Middletown Chamber event say workforce development is a top priority

The growing communications and partnerships between area colleges and employers was on display at Thursday’s annual Middletown event focusing on the local higher education.

The luncheon gathering, which includes dozens of educators and business leaders, is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce for Middletown, Monroe and Trenton and saw Miami University and other area school officials fielding questions in a panel format.

Most discussions centered on work force development as employers both locally and nationally struggle to find qualified personnel.

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Preparing the new generation of workers pre-COVID-19 pandemic was already a difficult task and one made harder since the pandemic’s onset in March 2020, said Moira Casey, regional associate dean for academic affairs for Miami University’s regional campuses in Middletown and Hamilton.

“Working through the pandemic and trying to lead institutions of higher education has been incredibly challenging,” said Casey.

The pandemic forced changes and shift to remote learning that remains in place in many circumstances, she said, “we found a broader range of instructional options met different students’ needs.”

Also on the panel at the event, which had an audience of about 80 at the Windamere hall in downtown Middletown, were officials from Cincinnati State - Provost Robbin Hoopes – and Butler Tech’s William Sprankles III, executive director of innovation, teaching and learning.

Casey said the Miami regionals has a high job placement rate for its graduates but she added, “this is a pretty tricky labor market right now.”

One of the emerging aspects among young career seekers is their focus on life and work balance as they move into the employment world after school, she said.

“There are some common concerns and one of them is I think students are interested in a work-life balance. But I think that means something different to each person and it’s really hard to extrapolate from that but I think it also says that is different for each employment setting too.”

“People are interested in leading a fulfilling life and being happy in their career and that work-life balance is really tied to it so … (company) benefits packages are interesting to students and attractive to students,” said Casey.

“And they are probably asking more questions (of colleges and employers) about those aspects of employment than maybe previous generations have.”

(Photo Journalist Nick Graham contributed to this story)

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