The school building looks like an office building, tucked in the back of the Great Oaks Career campus in Sharonville. But it houses programs that not only help local businesses, but also work with them to help train employees.

The Great Oaks Adult Workforce Development program gets its students ready for the workforce by staying in tune to industry needs by actively seeking out that information. The Adult Workforce program has 12 programs that prepare students to jump into the workforce, into mostly entry-level jobs. Those programs are auto collision, automotive service technology, construction technologies, dental assisting, electro-mechanical maintenance technology, fire and emergency medical rescue academy, heating/ventilation and air conditioning, heavy equipment operations and engineering, industrial diesel mechanics, medical office specialist with billing and coding, police academy, and welding technician.

“[We] are preparing people for what the labor market out there is in need of,” says Adult Workforce Development Director Carol Gittinger. “And we listen to our employers. We listen to chambers of commerce. We listen to the trends. We listen to company presidents and HR and all the way down the road, [about] what is really needed right now. We try to respond to all of their needs as much as we can.”

One way the school listens and responds is through Occupational Advisory Committees (OAC), comprised of business and industry leaders and managers. Gittinger says a requirement of Great Oaks is that there has to be an OAC for each of the 12 programs.

John McClung, a welding instructor, says he hears from the OAC and adjusts his program according to what they have to say.

“The OAC has been exceptional. They will tour the shop when we have meetings to come in and [we’ll] show them what we’ve done,” he says.

He says improvements to the courses are made from the OAC’s suggestions. And even though those meetings are scheduled three times a year, McClung and other teachers at Great Oaks will visit every month with employers to “see who else is out there, making those contacts with them, to see who’s hiring. Half the job is teaching, but the other help is meeting those employers and making sure we have the contacts to get these guys a job.”

The process works. McClung placed all 15 of his students from last year’s 10-month course.

Gettinger says the school has an ethical obligation to get its students employed, and has just earned a six-year period of accreditation by Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and another accreditation through the Council on Occupational Education, which means the program has to meet certain minimum qualifications.

“We must have at least 60 percent completion rate [in the programs] and 70 percent employment,” Gettinger says.

And those programs they teach that require the students to earn a license, the completion rate is about 85 percent and the employment rate is in the low 90 percent.

“Accreditation is a blueprint for standards and success,” she says. “You have to have certain processes in place. It’s a guarantee to the public that this institution follows these processes.”

The students are getting younger, both Gittinger and McClung say. When in the past there were several 50 year olds, now more are starting out younger, and some even have some college experience, if not college degrees.

“What I see are entry-level startup for these new students,” McClung says, “or a career change for some of those who have been in the workforce and want something better for their family and a little better career so they are coming here.”

Gittinger says the school’s student base is not unemployed they are mostly underemployed.

“They can’t make it work for their family, they want a better life for their family,” she says. “Because right now with the unemployment rate down … pretty much those who want to work are working. But that doesn’t mean they have the skill level these companies need. There’s a ton of jobs out there, but the applicants are just not prepared and we make them prepared.”

And with the adults in the program, there is no lateness or skipping of classes permitted—a work ethnic is also taught throughout the program.

“[The] teachers embed work ethic into the curriculum,” she says. “We get students who say, I can just be a little late, this is just school. No, we don’t act like that. This is the first part of your job. This is setting you up for success. And so we work on attitude and accountability and attendance and all kinds of things like that.”

The Great Oaks Adult Workforce Development program not only teaches students on its campus, but it also goes out and teaches at area businesses as well. One example is at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Avondale.

Gittinger says the coordinator of customized training, Kayla Corner, sets up regular visits to the hospital for training sessions on software.

“That’s a contract we’ve had for years,” Gittinger says. “As for other employers, maybe they need a course here or there. We’ve had someone call up and say I need so-and-so to be updated in this, am I going to send them to your nighttime class? We actually customize classes and send them out in the field. We call it customized training. So we respond to businesses as fast as they can let us know what they need.”

She says Great Oaks teachers can either take a class to the business, or the employees can come to the Adult Education building on the Scarlet Oaks Campus for that same class. “It’s not our primary business, but something we do otherwise.”

It is just another way the Great Oaks Adult Workforce Development program can work with and help businesses. But, as McClung says, it all goes back to the students.

“The success comes directly from the students, how hard they want to work. I constantly tell them it’s on you, it’s your money, I’m there helping them.”


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