Stark State College employer partnerships surge

Friday, January 31, 2020
Stark State College

Stark State College solidified its reputation as a leader in education-business partnerships during the past year and is heading into 2020 with a quartet of new collaborations. The North Canton-based community college is working with hospitals, governments, and businesses to train the region's workforce for advancement. 

Akron Children’s Hospital and Stark State are partnering on Career Launch, a workforce development program that provides entry-level hospital employees and community members interested in pursuing careers at Children’s with educational opportunities that will help them develop clinical careers in several high-demand fields, while also increasing their earning potential. 

“In our experience, employer-driven educational programs like Career Launch are the most effective way to attract, develop, and retain excellent employees in high-demand fields such as health care,” said Stark State President Dr. Para M. Jones.

Career Launch participants will receive a mix of classroom learning and hands-on practicums, culminating in an associate degree from the college. 

“The Career Launch program is a leading example of the new thinking and partnerships required to meet the needs of employers and to elevate our community’s workforce,” said Steve Millard, president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and one of the lead partners of the region’s Elevate Greater Akron regional economic development strategy.

Also in Summit County, Stark State is renting the land at its newly opened CDL training facility from the City of Akron. In lieu of rent payment, the City is awarded up to 225 college credits at Stark State each academic year.

In what the City refers to as its Workforce Development Program, these credits can be used free of charge by about 1,800 current City of Akron employees and their qualified dependents, who can attend any class in any program if there are available spots.

The unique compensation agreement “is truly a win-win partnership between the city and Stark State,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said.

FirstEnergy Corp. has developed a new education program in conjunction with Stark State and The University of Akron where instructors from both educational institutions will teach on-site at company facilities in the Akron area. 

Educate to Elevate will help develop a highly skilled workforce that’s adaptable and ready for the future with educational programs that could lead to advancement opportunities within the company.

“Through focus groups with customer service employees, we found people are interested in starting or going back to college, but the logistical challenges of getting to class on a campus are quite daunting,” said Gary Grant, vice president of customer service at FirstEnergy. “This is a ‘win-win’ situation, where employees can earn degrees and FirstEnergy builds a more knowledgeable, career-minded workforce.”

“Educate to Elevate aligns with our community’s Elevate Greater Akron plan to provide educational and career pathways to advance the lives of residents and ensure local companies have a well-educated and technically proficient workforce,” President Jones said.

The program features accelerated, eight-week courses along with flexible hours – including evenings – and online learning.

Through a partnership with Stark State, Mercy Medical Center is offering employees a free education in an in-demand health care field. Through the Grow with Us program, Mercy employees can earn a degree in an in-demand medical field at no cost – the hospital covers tuition, textbooks, fees, and other expenses. In exchange, the employee agrees to work at Mercy in the new capacity for at least three years.

Employees go through an application process that includes shadowing their chosen field or department for at least two hours. Applicants, some of whom already have advanced degrees, can be from any area of the hospital.