‘Home Field Advantage’ program connects local students, employers

Author: Link Lima/Allen County March 1, 2017

From a story originally reported in The Lima News.

LIMA — Workforce development officials are making it clear to local students that they have “home field advantage” when it comes to finding employment, internships and apprenticeships with area companies.

On Tuesday, representatives from OhioMeansJobs, Link Lima/Allen County, Procter & Gamble and the Ohio Department of Transportation spoke to Bath High School seniors about using these local connections to attain employment in the workforce after high school or college.

“For the group of kids who are going directly to work after high school, we want to provide them with local opportunities to get them connected with a local company,” said Joe Patton, workforce development administrator of OhioMeansJobs-Allen County. “For the kids going away to college, we want to get them connected through internships and pull them back into the area for a local job after they graduate.”

The Home Field Advantage initiative is an individualized program that helps a student figure out a career preference and find a job they can start immediately after graduation.

Brokered by guidance counselors, the program pairs each student with a professional job coach at OhioMeansJobs. Job coaches help students with their résumés, and provide interview coaching, employer matching, job placement and a personalized discussion about career options.

April Bidlack, a guidance counselor at Bath High School, said she believes the program is beneficial for any student who is trying to find employment, but is unsure of where to look for help.

“Keeping them informed is our No. 1 job,” Bidlack said. “So we want them to understand what is available to help them go directly into the workforce now, or help them know what is available once they leave college or even during their college experience.

“We want them to know there are lots of resources locally, and there are many people here to help them.”

OMJ and Link Lima work directly with guidance counselors at most Allen County high schools, and have even begun gathering names of students who are going off to college who may need internships as they advance in their college careers.

“It’s a long-range project,” Patton said. “For kids graduating in 2017, we probably won’t be calling them until 2020. But we have the name of a local college-bound student and we know their field of study, so we can reach out for these internships and pull them back into the area.”

To further demonstrate the connection economic development groups have with local employers, they brought officials from P&G and ODOT to speak directly with students. The officials explained the opportunities for employment, internships and apprenticeships for students going directly into the workforce, and for those who are college bound.

“The chance to see a real person, talk to them and ask them questions, it really has a more resonating impact with the candidates and future employees to want to stay in the area,” said Robert Rutty, human resources leader at P&G’s Lima facility. “It’s helping give them faith that there is something here for them.”

At P&G, Rutty said college internships are the main “feeder pool” for full-time employment. For those looking to go directly into the workforce, he said site visits are a great way to connect with employers. Bath seniors will have a chance to visit P&G on March 15.

At ODOT, business administrator Chris Hardesty said there are opportunities for summer work, internships and apprenticeships. Through the apprenticeship program, ODOT will even pay for a potential employee to receive their commercial driver license.

“It’s a situation where, once they are put through our program and have their CDL, we can continue to train a person and get them to a point where they could have a full-time position,” Hardesty said. “There’s all kinds of opportunities, and we see it as a win for the whole community.”