Gary Herman (standing) speaks before a few of the members of Putnam County's Business Advisory Council during a meeting held last Friday at the Putnam County ESC. Members include local government officials, non-profit and business leaders, and school administrators and guidance counselors. Anyone who may be interested in joining the effort is encouraged to contact the ESC. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)
Gary Herman (standing) speaks before a few of the members of Putnam County's Business Advisory Council during a meeting held last Friday at the Putnam County ESC. Members include local government officials, non-profit and business leaders, and school administrators and guidance counselors. Anyone who may be interested in joining the effort is encouraged to contact the ESC. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Last Friday at the county’s Educational Services Center in Ottawa, representatives of local businesses, along with area school administrators and teachers, approximately 25 people total, held their second Business Advisory Council (BAC) meeting. The council exists due to a mandate from the Kasich Administration that every school have a BAC by last September, 2018. Its purpose seems to be a cross between job-readiness for students, and workforce development for businesses.

This is not the first time such an endeavor had been tried in the county, or even the second. In 1999, The Putnam County Sentinel published a special section on economic development as it relates to the workforce and education. Many of the ideas pursued then - internships, job shadowing, earning industry credentials while in high school - are again being pursued now.

Gary Herman, Curriculum Coordinator with the ESC, is facilitating this new endeavor. He is aware of this history, including the last time a BAC met in the county in 2010, and seems intent on not reinventing the wheel, so-to-speak. For this new effort, he first took a look at what other counties, similar to Putnam in demographics and size, are doing.

“[Last September], I brought to [the business representatives and educators] about four or five BAC models from around the state—Auglaize and Mercer counties, Northwest Ohio ESC, and several others,” Mr. Herman says prior to Friday’s meeting. “At the September meeting, they read through them, asking ‘What do we like about these mission statements? What do we like about their objectives? What do we see as pertinent for Putnam County?’ ”

The participants came up with four different objectives for Putnam County. The first, developing a resource list for guidance counselors, school administrators, and educators. This resource list would identify the who, what, where, and how of area intern opportunities, job shadowing, businesses willing and able to send speakers to schools, and similar efforts.

The second objective focuses on building on the success of the now-annual Elevate event. Members of the BAC would like to find ways of making that event, which welcomes area students in the morning before transforming into a more adult-focused jobs fair in the afternoon, more interactive between prospective employers and the students who attend.

The third objective places its focus on educators themselves. Specifically, how to create ‘Educator in the Workplace’ opportunities, or something similar, during the school year or in the summer months. And, how to incentivize teachers to take part by aligning such events with continuing education or contact hours requirements.

The fourth group sought ways to create an event similar to Elevate, but focused on “in-demand” occupations in the area. One participating business recently joined such an event at Patrick Henry High School in Henry County. Prior to that event, high school teachers worked to identify students who were not on a college or career track, incorporated instruction on resume writing into classwork with all students, and organized a field trip to Henry County’s Job & Family Services office.

The intent is not to duplicate these efforts exactly. Putnam County’s Jobs & Family already offers a presentation on in-demand jobs and other opportunities immediately available upon graduation at area schools in Putnam County. The intent of these early meetings is also not necessarily to come up with new ideas for county students either. Those exist, as past efforts and Mr. Herman’s research on the activities of other BACs readily proves.

Instead, the intent is to figure out how, exactly, these objectives and ideas will be pursued. A person must organize these efforts and facilitate the logistical realities of creating such events and opportunities. Ideally, they would also do so in a way that would guarantee some level of permanence to the programs.

“I love this work,” Mr. Herman says. “It’s very applicable to helping the students. So, I do this. But, when we start talking about planning events, and things like that, it’s not going to be feasibly possible for me and my colleague, Melissa, who works on the elementary curriculum side, to do these events.”

Hancock County’s BAC, called Raise the Bar, employees a full-time organizer. The Auglaize-Mercer Business Education Alliance (AMBEA) does the same. And, participating business members of AMBEA agree to contribute financially for three years. On the organization’s website, suggested annual contributions range from $1,500 to $10,000.

For now, it seems that Putnam’s BAC will continue moving forward making plans on programs it would like to see implemented. The logistical question of how to do so remains outstanding.