Marion Area Workforce Acceleration Collaborative
MAWAC is a new and innovative concept for many people in Marion County. MAWAC is the collaborative vehicle to discuss integrated opportunities for education and industry to help advance workforce preparedness and economic development in the Marion area. It was created because of the Ohio law – Ohio Revised Code section 3313.82, which states each school district and the governing board of each educational service center shall appoint a business advisory council.
Why is MAWAC innovative if every school district is mandated to do this? Because Marion County, unlike most other counties, is working together with representatives from every school district and higher education institution in the county to have one collective business advisory council. This shows yet again Marion is working together to improve our county, this time through workforce development and education.
MAWAC’s core team consists of the superintendents of each Marion County school district as well as Tri-Rivers Career Center, the dean of The Ohio State University at Marion, the president of Marion Technical College, the president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce, the director of Marion County Job and Family Services and the director of Marion Can Do!. The core team also includes no more than ten representatives from Marion Area businesses or industries. As more business partners join MAWAC, subcommittees will be formed to promote direct collaboration within the school districts on career exploration and pathway development.
Why is this important to our community? Leland Vogel of LehmanDamen Construction summed it up in this statement, “We are struggling to get qualified, dedicated employees. We are constantly looking for ways to improve this concern. We look at MAWAC as a way we can help make a change to this challenge and be part of the solution.”
Tom White, HR director of STAR Turbine, agreed saying, “The hardest part of my job is filling high-level positions within the company. It is important to find a way of reducing the “brain drain” issue in Marion.” Both of these concerns say why collaboration is important to our community. Our schools need to provide the career pathways to fill key job positions, as well as the businesses, need to communicate the needs and wealth of good-paying opportunities available for our future workforce.
One way in which education can serve the workforce needs of industry is through career exploration opportunities during Middle School and defined career pathways in High School. Career pathways are a combination of programs and services intended to develop students’ academic, technical, and employability skills; provide them with continuous education, training; and place them in high-demand, high-opportunity jobs. Through the MAWAC efforts, the K-12 Districts in Marion are focused on providing career exploration and developing pathways in Health Care, Engineering/Robotics, Business Administration, and Computer Sciences.
While the MAWAC group is new as far as having their by-laws and charter in place, the idea for the joint group was discussed around the same time as when MarionMade! was formed in late 2016. MAWAC has steadily moved forward and in early 2019 the educational side of MAWAC received funding grants, which will help the districts in planning and providing career exploration opportunities, develop career pathways along with specialized teacher professional development.
The Core Team of MAWAC appointed Dr. Shelly as Director. Dr. Dason’s main role is that of school/business liaison. She was instrumental in getting the 1300 Marion school students to the first annual Made in Marion Expo in October, giving middle and high school students a chance to see the exciting opportunities available in Marion County. As Shelly Dason said, “This collaborative effort between businesses and school districts is critical in helping students define their pathways in the future workforce as being Employed, Enrolled or Enlisted.”
Marion residents should be proud of the collaborative efforts of our schools and businesses through MAWAC. MAWAC is showing how working together can help build a stronger future for our students, our workforce, and Marion County.