The building in Norwood sat without a tenant for months. The vast space on the first floor of the building was largely unoccupied, save for desks and cubicles.
IT WAS PERFECT.
“We needed a location that was central to many college students in the Tri-state,” says Dave Dougherty, CEO and founder of Education at Work, of the site that once housed some operations for Cincinnati Bell. “It needed easy access to the interstate with enough room to grow.”
AND GROW IT HAS.
The building now houses more than 150 local college students who work part-time at Education at Work, a nonprofit call center. With the support of a grant from the SC Ministry Foundation, the Mount was the first college to partner with the nonprofit organization. Proposed future plans include a new call center located closer to the Mount’s campus in Delhi.
“This was an opportunity we had to make a positive impact on the affordability of college,” said Mount President Tony Aretz, Ph.D. “Many of our students will have loans to re-pay after they graduate. This is a chance for them to earn money to pay for school and books, but also to develop key skills they will likely use in their careers.”
Education At Work provides students with flexible hours while offering real-world job and managements kills. The other factor that sets it apart is its economic structure. Students earn an hourly rate and up to $6,000 a year in tuition aid, based on GPA and hours worked, which is paid directly to their college.
One of the first Mount students in the training classes for Education at Work employees was Mount freshman Matt Maurer (shown left and above center).
“I was in freshman orientation at the Mount over the summer and I heard someone talk about this job which would pay a salary and I could earn money toward tuition too,” says Maurer, a business student and Elder High School graduate. “I called on it right away.”
Education at Work currently serves major corporate clients like Macy’s, Cincinnati Bell and Vantiv. Maurer works with Macy’s customers. Employees on the Macy’s account are trained to help customers with questions and concerns related to online orders. Employees on the Cincinnati Bell account follow up with customers after service calls such as new installations.
Mount freshman Nate Cheek also works on the Macy’s account since joining Education at Work in October. He heard about the company and stopped by when a recruiter was on campus touting the program.
“They’re very flexible,” says Cheek, an accounting major from Pataskala, Ohio. “I give them my schedule and they work my hours around it. The paycheck is nice because I can save money and the tuition assistance is also very appealing.”
Cheek says he also views his part-time job as more than a paycheck. “It’s an opportunity for me to learn additional professional skills,” he said. “I’m learning communication skills and making important networking connections.”
Cheek says a benefit of working with students is the atmosphere. Education at Work offers a lounge with WiFi so students can study or charge their cell phones and laptops. A nearby foosball table is surrounded by couches and Starbucks coffee is free in the break room.
“It’s nice to be with a diverse group of students from other colleges because it’s a good way to make new friends,” says Cheek. “It’s also been a neat experience because everyone helps each other out, not just with questions related to school, but also those about how to solve certain problems with work.”
And those are important skills to learn, says Rich Utecht, career and cooperative education coordinator at the Mount. Plans are under way to have on-site training and development available to Mount students who work at Education at Work.
“One of the goals the Career and Experiential Learning Center has is to collaborate with Education at Work to make these positions more developmental in terms of helping students with essential skills for the workplace,” said Utecht. “We’d like to move these jobs beyond a way to simply make money and turn this opportunity into a way to support our academic goals,” he adds.
“Our strategic partnership with Education at Work is a great example of how higher education can collaborate with the business community to proactively support our mutual objectives, while serving the changing needs of our student population and our mission,” says Jen Franchak, director of career and experiential education at the Mount. “I can envision additional opportunities for strategic partnerships like this in the future.”
Education at Work continues to grow, as do the opportunities for Mount students to earn money to help pay for college.