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Butler County higher education changing faster, targeting jobs

Butler Tech superintendent Jon Graft speaks during the annual higher education seminar Thursday, Nov. 3 at MidUSA Credit Union in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Butler Tech superintendent Jon Graft speaks during the annual higher education seminar Thursday, Nov. 3 at MidUSA Credit Union in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Higher education in Butler County is adjusting to societal needs faster than ever and everyone – not just students – will benefit, said speakers at an annual chamber event Thursday.

The annual “state of higher education” event sponsored by the Middletown, Monroe and Trenton Chamber of Commerce and supported by the Journal-News/Cox Media drew more than 50 leaders from schools, community groups and businesses.

A series of speakers – including those from Miami University, Cincinnati State and Butler Tech – focused on different new developments, but they all shared a common theme of adjusting to the changing needs of employers world and how post-secondary and high school programs can meet those.

“Industries are saying we have crucial needs and crucial talents they need filled,” said Robbin Hoopes, provost for Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, which has a campus in downtown Middletown among its locations in Southwest Ohio.

The college, said Hoopes, starts the process of creating and offering programs by first determining what private industry needs.

Students then have a more assured “pathway” to employment after graduation.

“And we make sure it’s not a pathway to nowhere – it is instead a pathway to a job,” said Hoopes.

Miami University Associate Dean Cathy Bishop-Clark said the pathways at the school continue to expand thanks in large part to Miami’s regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown.

The Miami regionals, which enroll 4,000 students at the Hamilton campus and 3,000 at Middletown, have in recent years vastly expanded its four-year degree offerings, said Bishop-Clark.

In 2009 there were just 55 bachelor-degree graduates from Miami's regionals but in 2015 there were 319.

Despite the regionals geographical separation from Miami’s main Oxford campus – the entire Miami University campus system is the largest employer in Butler County – Bishop-Clark told the audience “we are one Miami.”

Jon Graft, first-year superintendent for Butler Tech career school, which serves both high school and adult students, said more of its learning programs are funneling graduates to both employment and post-secondary education.

Butler Tech’s extensive career training programs, which are often designed with input from private industry, allow teenagers to better determine their career paths as young adults.

“We want them to test to see if that is a field they want to be in for 30 years. And by the time they graduate from a two or four-year university, we have been a big part of that,” said Graft.