Becoming a strong community requires a lot of strategic thinking by local leaders to create a place that residents can enjoy now as well as in the future. The ability to enjoy a place is not only based on entertainment value or beauty, but also the ability to support a local workforce that can be gainfully employed and compensated with wages that afford a quality of life.

One local organization – Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C) – has been thinking strategically about the relationship between youth education and a strong workforce since 2012. Over the past seven years, this organization has grown to embrace a number of new initiatives – like the Epicenter – all focused on supporting the growth of a strong community.

“The original concept of the Epicenter was created throughout the summer of 2015 during many collaborative conversations. These conversations led to the creation of a steering committee, after a failed attempt at a grant, that supported the opportunity to pilot the concept in the Marietta Armory in 2017,” shared Tasha Werry, Executive Director of BB2C.

Only five short years after the initial founding of the BB2C concept and two short years after the Epicenter officially launched, the organization has grown tremendously to include a makerspace, small business incubator, weekly events and workshops, and a coordinated internship placement program for high school students, youth, and unemployed locals.

Youth have access to mentors and equipment that can be utilized to earn micro-credentials based on their chosen path and interests. Being located in one place, in the Epicenter, youth and entrepreneurs can collaborate and cross-pollinate.

Tasha Werry

Currently, the unemployment rate in southeast Ohio is averaging 6.8% with the top industries being state and local government, health care and social assistance, and retail trade. With 42% of the region receiving their H.S. Diplomas, utilizing alternative pathways to gain education and training that leads to employment is necessary for economic vitality.

“The earlier you can have the career pathway discussion with students, the better,” shared Bret Allphin, Development Director for Buckeye Hills Regional Council.

“Our experience has shown that students have a limited understanding of career opportunitiesin general, and even less understanding of local careers. Sharing your own personal journey from education to employment is a great place to start,” said Allphin.

Building Bridges to Careers was recently awarded funds for regional workforce training by Buckeye Hills Regional Council, a local council of governments dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents in southeast Ohio.

The total amount awarded was $97,500 specifically to support an increase in internship placement and to provide scholarships for local entrepreneurs and start-ups who participate in the offerings of the Epicenter. These funds will support Morgan, Noble, and Washington counties.

“Traditional workforce dollars have primarily focused on longer-term training opportunities. The Epicenter has the flexibility to develop skills focused on an individual’s needs, regardless of where they are in their journey,” said Werry.

“The steps that individuals take at the Epicenter through this funding opportunity can lead them directly to the workforce or to their next educational step at a local institute of higher education. And, there is enough flexibility to also lead them to the independence of business ownership,” Werry continued.

Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the growth of the U.S. economy. Not only do entrepreneurs often support the local economy in the implementation of their vision, but entrepreneurs are differentiated from business owners because of their knack for solving problems or addressing a need with a new solution.

According to Main Street America, commercial revitalization professionals are being called upon to lead and develop initiatives that support innovative entrepreneurship as part of sustainable, robust local economies. The focus of Building Bridges to Career in connecting youth development to workforce development and the growth of a community is leading the way in ensuring a strong local economy for our region.

“We really want the Epicenter to be a hub of innovation, inspiration, and support that makes waves of impact out into the community,” shared Werry.


To learn more about Building Bridges to Careers, visit buildingbridgestocareers.org.

To learn more about Buckeye Hills Regional Council and regional job training projects, visit www.buckeyehills.org

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