New Miami program helping students learn careers in Hamilton, Middletown could spread Ohio-wide

A new Miami University Hamilton school to work program - Miami Work Plus - is already working for area students, say school officials and state leaders. Officials met earlier this week to review the status of the program, which started in 2019 for both Hamilton and Middletown Miami students. (File Photo\Journal-News)
A new Miami University Hamilton school to work program - Miami Work Plus - is already working for area students, say school officials and state leaders. Officials met earlier this week to review the status of the program, which started in 2019 for both Hamilton and Middletown Miami students. (File Photo\Journal-News)

A new experimental school-to-work program based at Miami University’s Hamilton and Middletown regional campuses is the template for all Ohio community and four-year universities, state leaders and school officials said this week.

And the Hamilton component of Miami’s Work Plus Program may eventually include providing downtown housing for participating students, said Ohio Senator Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., who sponsored the state law for creating the unique program.

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The more than three dozen participating students, who are attending two- and four-year degree classes at the regionals campuses, work 20 hours for a local companies in a variety of jobs aligning with their areas of study.

In return, their employers pay student tuition – more than $100,000 so far – and provide a real work world bridge for students to gain insight and experience into their future careers.

The students’ grade point average so far is 3.43, said Miami officials.

The program is made to help students from needy families earn college degrees withoutbeing burdened with large college loan debts.

Miami President Gregory Crawford said that “as we designed and implemented the Work Plus Program we made a conscious decision to consider how other higher education institutions (in Ohio) – and regional employers – could also roll out a Work Plus Program in their own communities.”

Coley said the economic blows from the coronavirus makes the program, which started in the fall of 2019, all the more vital.

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“Our employers need workers and we are now putting people who are at the prime of their work life and getting them … from just studying as students and getting them to participate in the labor force as well as get their degrees,” said Coley.

“It’s a great program that will really benefit all of Ohio … and I look forward to watching this program evolve,” he said of the planned expansion to the state’s 22 other regional campus of four-year universities and Ohio’s 20 community colleges.

A converted downtown Hamilton office building is the possible site for student housing in the program in the next year or two, he said.

“We are still working with (local downtown developers) regarding the housing that is available at 3rd and Dayton Streets in Hamilton. The building is up and running with absolutely fantastic facilities for the residents. We are still trying to coordinate additional services,” he said.

Miami Hamilton sophomore Jeremiah Watene, who is majoring in small business management, has been working with the sales marketing team at the Fairfield-based Fischer Group more than a year.

Watene described Work Plus as a “such a blessing for me.”

“It’s given me an opportunity to get a Miami education for free and at the same time allowing me to work in the same sales and marketing field I’m currently studying in school,” he said.

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