Marion Area Workforce Acceleration Collaborative Reinforces Marion’s Claim as America’s Workforce Development Capital®

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job changes are very common early in a person’s working years. While data is still being collected, job experts and career counselors believe the average person has six to seven careers in their lifetime—and that number continues to grow. In Marion, Ohio, business and educational leaders are working to prevent these workplace shifts by educating current students on future opportunities now.

As America’s Workforce Development Capital®, community-driven organizations such as Marion’s Business Advisory Council have a duty to ensure Marion businesses have the workforce they need to achieve their business goals. Recognizing the need to form mutually-beneficial connections among businesses, community leaders, teachers and students, the council created The Marion Area Workforce Acceleration Collaborative, or MAWAC.

“MAWAC originated from Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.82, which stipulated each school district and the governing board of each educational service center shall enter into a partnership with area businesses and form a council”, said Dr. Shelly Dason, director of MAWAC.

MAWAC is a collaborative board of professionals representing educational institutions, local businesses, economic and workforce development organizations such as The Marion Chamber of Commerce. The three main goals of the collaborative are:

As the director of MAWAC, Dr. Dason serves as the main liaison between our school districts and companies. She believes that Marion County is primed for opportunity as America’s Workforce Development Capital® due to the forward-thinking collaboration between Marion County’s businesses, industries and the educational system—the core of MAWAC’s work.

“If we’re not doing our part to help future employees gain the skills needed to be successful, we’re not going to attract new businesses to Marion,” said Dr. Dason. “If we’re not shaking hands with business partners now as an educational organization then we’re not doing due diligence for our future employees and businesses that want to locate to Marion.”

Working with Marion-area businesses such as Sakamura USA, OhioHealth and Whirlpool, MAWAC provides a communication bridge between businesses and schools to discuss and explore the three E’s—employment, enrollment or enlistment—by the time a student graduates. These opportunities range from career awareness for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, career exploration for students in grades sixth through eighth and worked-based learning in the three E’s for students in grades ninth through twelfth.

Although the global pandemic halted the efforts of many organizations, MAWAC continued this important work by moving their monthly meetings to a virtual setting. This encouraged the core members to think outside the box.

“The annual Made In Marion Expo, which hosts Marion-area manufactures as interactive vendors to students in seventh and ninth grade, had to shift gears during Covid-19,” said Dason. “Many companies hosted virtual tours featuring job opportunities within their company.”

Gus Comstock, director at Marion CAN DO!, champions Dr. Dason and MAWAC when presenting Marion to prospective businesses looking to relocate to the area.

“MAWAC is a great resource because it’s one point of contact that I can reach out to when meeting with employers or prospective companies looking to move here,” said Comstock.

With new career opportunities such as the Microfarm at The Ohio State University at Marion and the recent purchase of the Marion County Raceway by The Triple F Collection, Dr. Dason is excited for future collaborative opportunities between businesses and schools to help build the skills of future employees and close the workforce gap in Marion, Ohio.

“Preparing students for their future careers starts as early as kindergarten, and our schools are developing their curriculums and courses with the needs of potential future employers in mind,“ said Dason. “MAWAC has opened my eyes as an educator, and it’s great to take the knowledge I have of businesses in Marion and share it with key players in the educational industry.”

To learn more about MAWAC or get involved, visit its website: